Can GERD Cause Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades

By Last Updated: November 6th, 20235.1 min readViews: 2567

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About the Author: Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs is a multi-disciplinary health professional, combining his roles as an award-winning athletic therapist, registered massage therapist, and certified holistic nutritionist to offer a comprehensive approach to wellness. Graduating in 2013, Daryl has been recognized as the best massage therapy clinic in Victoria for 2022 and 2023 and has received national athletic therapy awards. He is known for his holistic approach to health, focusing on treating the body as a whole. Clients appreciate his focus on the science of probiotics, supplements, gut health, and the human body, ensuring a well-informed and evidence-based approach to their wellness journey.

Introduction: A Burning Question

If you’ve ever experienced that gnawing pain between your shoulder blades, you know how bothersome it can be. But, can GERD cause back pain between shoulder blades? In this article, we’ll dive into the perplexing relationship between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and upper back pain. We’ll explore the reasons behind this connection, how to identify the symptoms, and steps you can take to manage the discomfort. So, buckle up and get ready to decode this mystery!

Key Takeaway: Yes, GERD can cause pain between the shoulder pains. This happens from the association of the nerve of the stomach and the close relationship to the mid back.

If you have GERD and back pain, I’d suggest you consider using a digestive enzyme to help relieve your pain. Here’s a premium digestive enzyme that works quite well.

Can GERD Cause Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades? Making Sense of the Connection

​​Yes, GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause back pain between the shoulder blades. The pain between the shoulder blades is referred pain, which means that the pain originates in one part of the body but is felt in another part.

The sensory nerves in the esophagus share the same signal pathway to the brain as the phrenic nerves that communicate pain in the diaphragm and abdominal area.

Therefore, the intensity of heartburn is so marked that the pain felt in the chest and esophagus will radiate to the area between your shoulder blades

The pain from GERD can sometimes radiate to other parts of the body, such as the chest, neck, or back. This is due to the close proximity of nerves in these areas.

As the esophagus becomes inflamed, the nerves may send pain signals to the brain, which can be perceived as pain in the upper back or between the shoulder blades. This phenomenon is known as referred pain.

Identifying GERD-Related Upper Back Pain

​​GERD-related upper back pain can be identified by a burning sensation in the abdominal region and chest, which can radiate from the front to the back.

The pain can be between the shoulder blades in the upper back area or range from mid to lower back.

While people can experience GERD and back pain at the same time, it is more likely that the GERD is caused by something related to the existing back pain or its treatment, rather than GERD causing back pain.

However, acid reflux and GERD can cause referred pain between the shoulder blades.

GERD-related upper back pain is often triggered by certain foods that cause acid reflux, such as spicy or fatty foods.

People with low mobility and those who are overweight are also at a higher risk of experiencing GERD-related back pain. Stress from ongoing pain can also cause GERD in some people.

It is important to note that while GERD can cause back pain, it is more likely that the GERD is caused by something related to the existing back pain or its treatment, rather than GERD causing back pain

To determine if your back pain between shoulder blades is caused by GERD, consider the following factors:

  • Timing: GERD-related back pain often coincides with digestive symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, or regurgitation. If your back pain occurs soon after eating or when lying down, GERD could be the culprit.
  • Other symptoms: Look out for other GERD symptoms, such as chest pain, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, and a sour taste in the mouth.
  • Response to treatment: If your back pain improves with digestive enzyme it may be GERD-related.

Managing GERD-Induced Mid-Back Pain

To manage GERD-induced back pain, lifestyle changes are recommended. Some of these are eating well, staying at a healthy weight, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, improving posture, staying hydrated, quitting smoking, and making stomach acid better. Over-the-counter medications like antacids can help neutralize stomach acid and decrease acidity, but I find that this makes it worse over time. GERD seems to be caused by lower stomach acid, not an overproduction of stomach acid.

Declining stomach acid initially causes heartburn symptoms, for which most people begin taking antacid medications.

Low stomach acid can also cause occasional heartburn or acid to come back up from the stomach. Maintaining optimal stomach acid levels is key to preventing acid reflux and GERD

If you suspect GERD is causing your back pain between shoulder blades, try these strategies to find relief:

  • Improve stomach acidity: You can use a digestive enzyme to help with the breakdown of foods. I wouldn’t suggest PPI’s or ant acids, as they have long-term problems and make the problem typically worse long-term.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors can help reduce acid reflux and alleviate back pain.
  • Lifestyle changes: Avoid trigger foods, eat smaller meals, and don’t lie down within 3 hours of eating. Elevating the head of your bed can also help.
  • Stress reduction: Stress can worsen GERD symptoms. Incorporate relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga into your routine.
  • Exercise: Engage in low-impact exercises to strengthen your back muscles and promote overall well-being.

How to improve stomach acid naturally

There are several natural ways to improve stomach acid levels. Some of these are taking HCL supplements, getting more zinc, taking probiotics, eating ginger, limiting refined carbohydrates, and eating fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, miso, cheese, and kombucha.

Chewing food thoroughly is also a simple but overlooked tip to improve stomach acid levels and digestion.

Using digestive bitters before a meal can stimulate acid production and keep the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) closed. Ingesting apple cider vinegar before meals can also help balance the pH in the stomach

Conclusion: Putting the Pieces Together

In conclusion, the puzzling connection between GERD and back pain between shoulder blades can be explained by referred pain. While it may seem counterintuitive for a digestive disorder to cause upper back pain, the close proximity of nerves in the esophagus and back allows for this phenomenon to occur. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of GERD-related back pain, you can take steps to manage and alleviate the discomfort.

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