This question was answered on Mon 06, Jul 2009 03:07am by Dr Bhupinder K, MD

severe Upper back pain between shoulder blades and jaw pain. Not a heart attack.!!! Wondering if it could be gall bladder?

Asked by Unregistered (Female; 45; Had hysterectomy 2 years ago, Abnormal cells, heavy bleeding and done having children.; Relevant drugs:20 mg lexapro, Adavan 1mg when needed ) on Wed 16, Jul 2008 11:57am

In the last six months I have experienced 3 attacks. I am not sure what they and neither is my Doctor. The first attack woke me up out of a sound sleep, with a throbbing back pain between my shoulder blades that radiated up to my whole jaw. I am 45, so I assumed that I was having a heart attack, there is a family history. I was admitted, they gave me nitro which did take away the jaw pain but not the back pain. every test came back negative for a heart attack, Had ekg, stress test with the dye all negative. 2 months later I had the same thing happened again, went to hospital, because the pain is absolutely horrible! They gave me nitro which did take a way the jaw pain again. My doctor ordered a catheter, which came back with no blockages of any kinds. The next episode happened about 3 weeks ago, I knew it wasn't my heart, but ended up in the emergency room because of the pain. they gave me 2 shots of something, not really sure what.. for pain, but did nothing! My PCD ordered a scope and I just had that done. I found out that I have inflamed stomach, a small hiatal hernia, and from previous blood work, I have a fatty liver, the count is a little high. Some one recently suggested that it could be my gall bladder. So my question is would a gall bladder attack produce jaw pain? Also, I have never had chest pains with these attacks, I never suffer from indigestion, I don't get stomach aches. They have ruled out heart spasms, esophageal spasms, so far.

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Answer by Dr Bhupinder K, MD  on Mon 06, Jul 2009 03:07am:

Hello, Gall bladder pain can radiate to the shoulder but not to the jaw.Also since inflamed stomach has been found out,so it could be due to GERD or acute peptic ulcers which might present with such symptoms.I would suggest you to consult a gastroenterologist.In the meanwhile Eat small nutritious meals at frequent intervals instead of a heavy single meal. Exercise frequently and take your dinner atleast 2 hrs prior to bedtime. Also raise the head end of the bed by 2 blocks. To help control the stomach acid, one should not drink alcohol or drinks with caffeine in them, or eat chocolate or spicy or greasy foods .Take some OTC antacid like Mylanta.You can also take zantac(ranitidine)or prilosec(omeprazole).These will help.Also keep your fluid electrolyte balance optimum by drinking lots of fluids. Hope it helps.Take care and regards.
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Comment by Nick on Mon 13, Jul 2009 01:12pm:
I know this post is a bit dated, but i've been having the same pains in my upper back between my shoulder blades since about October of 2007. The pain sometimes begins on my right side just beneath my right shoulder blade, sometimes it radiates around into my side and up into my jaw and sometimes it starts dead center between my shoulder blades right on my spine. Its a very horrible pain, like you said. It feels like someone is cutting me up inside or pouring acid in those areas. The Jaw pain is more discomfort than pain, but its still present. I've had several tests as well. I also came back with a fatty liver, an MRI showed a herniated disk, which the doctor would like to attribute the pain too. A hida scan revealed barely abnormal gallbladder function. Doctor referred me to a surgeon which referred me to a gastroint. Gastroint did a scope and found nothing of relevance. The thing is that the HIDA scan did not recreate the pain which seemed strange to the doctor. I am hesitant to have my gallbladder removed without a 100% certainty that this will solve my problem. On top of that, greasy foods do not set it off. I am curious to know if you've found an answer to your problem, since it appears that we may be suffering from the same thing. Thanks and good luck..

Comment by Guzz on Wed 29, Sep 2010 11:58am:
I'm 45 and I've been experiencing the same pain you guys described. Pain in upper right shoulder blade radiates to my sides and up in to my jaw. I had upper back pain from 2009, but lately jaw pain started ( had some deep teeth cleaning done. Don't know if the shots taken to numb the pain was too much. Shows up now). Can't run or exert myself. I've been in Computer field (logging 9 hours everyday for 20 years). Got afraid yesterday and had ECG taken and ECG came out normal. Were you guys able to find out the root cause of the problem/pain. Pl.share if you did.

Comment by Nick on Thu 30, Sep 2010 02:22pm:
Guzz, unfortunately no new discoveries from my end. The good thing is that i'm still alive and the pain actually has gone away. I havent had episoded in about 4 months so I completely forgot about it. Good luck with your issues, hope they resolve without complications.

Comment by Kathy on Tue 09, Nov 2010 09:22am:
See a neurologist, it sounds like transverse myelitis. I had that severe pain in my upper back radiating outward on both sides. It's inflammation of the spinal cord. That could be it! One of my attacks also woke me out of a sound sleep. I'm waiting for MRI results because it can lead to MS. Hope this was helpful

Comment by cindy on Sat 01, Jan 2011 03:53pm:
I have had this pain for over 3 months. sometimes it goes away for days. 53 year old ...smoker...had every heart test done in August. Ibuprofen helps...I can't stand it anymore. I worry so much that it is some awful cancer or that my heart is failing ...the stress of the worry makes it much worse. My doctor said it was from a cough I had a while ago combined with bad posture. I want somebody to find out what it is...what tests should I ask for ???

Comment by CAROLINE WALLACE on Mon 21, Feb 2011 06:40am:

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Comment by on Fri 11, Mar 2011 07:51am:
Sever pain in upper back after sleeping may be due to wrong posture of sleeping. You should use right mattress, pillow and Desk for sitting plus some specific back stretching excersice will be useful.

Comment by Evan on Sun 03, Apr 2011 08:11pm:
I am 48 years old, and experience this same problem. Like Cindy, I stress that it is something like a heart attack and I'm about to die. I do not drink or smoke, but I am a bit overweight. Sometimes I don't have it for months. Then when it hits, it seems like it happens a few times over several weeks. Sometimes I feel like a mild form of the pain is there, but that could be phantom pain caused by my fears. I get the pain between the shoulder blades and I feel it in the back of my jaw (hard to say if it's the top, bottom or both). I've also noticed that it usually happens prior to eating -- perhaps when I hungry or getting ready to eat. I'm not sure, but I'd guess I've had this problem for close to about 2 years now.

Comment by Dr Bhupinder K, MD on Sun 03, Apr 2011 10:27pm:
Pain between shoulders and jaws prior to eating can be due to anxiety neurosis, muscle strain, nerve compression or cervical spinal causes. If it is happening in chest as well, get the cardiac causes ruled out by an EKG.

Comment by Susan on Fri 17, Jun 2011 10:29pm:
I have the same thing!! I just had a light attack (jaw and upper back at the same time) and got on the Net to see if I could find a solution. I was so worried after one bad attack that I thought I had a heart attack so I went to the hospital where they ran tests and found nothing. I am 58, overweight, and just began swimming for exercise. I got up in the morning with lower back pain for the very first time, which I attribute to swimming fairly strenuously yesterday. I have two questions, if anyone can please answer: 1. Is jaw pain a known adjunct of back pain? and 2. Is there any type of stretching that can be done to alleviate the symptims as they are occurring? I did take a fast-acting pain killer which was recommended by the hospital and it seemed to work. Thank you!

Comment by Carol on Fri 12, Aug 2011 08:23am:
I am a 31 year old female who has been SUFFERING from these pain attacks for atleast 3 years. They begin like everyone elses in my upper back, around the right side into my chest and up the right side of my face. I have logged my daily routines (i.e. diet, activity etc) to see if I can pin point triggers (and nothing is consistant). As mentioned above I can go months without an attack and then BAM they hit and then they will happen every other day to almost daily for a few weeks. They only releif I can find is Tylenol extra strength max daily doses, buddied with hot and cold compresses on my back. Tests....I have had bloodtests (specifially for my gallbladder & liver - all came back fine), I have had cat scans and MRI's (thought its was pinched nerves or onset of scoleosis - all came back negative). I have referred for physiotherapy (the massage is nice - but does not prevent). The final recommendation was for a 'Pain block' to be put in my spine (at the time I was eight months pregnant - therefore I declined). This pain is RIDICULOUS and FRIGHTENING!!! And I am so FRUSTRATED that there is no is this possible? That so many people share such similar symptoms and not one doctor can figure this out......Best of luck to all living with at times what seems like cronic heart attacks.

Comment by Cathy on Mon 22, Aug 2011 01:10pm:
I've just saw a doctor on Friday because the previous Friday I had an attack of intense pain high up in my abdomen, just where the rib bones meet, and it radiated to my jaw which was severely painful. I am also 45 years old, female, not overweight, smoker, but keep active. I was told it wasn't my heart but possibly gallstones. I've had a dull ache at the right side of my back around the kidney area for a while but didn't connect the stomach pains to the back ache. I find it hard to believe that jaw pain can be associated with gallstones but who knows, maybe there are a few rare cases where the jaw is affected? I still need to have an ultrasound performed to find out if there are stones. The ECG came back negative for a heart attack.

Comment by Kevin on Sun 12, Feb 2012 10:36pm:
I have the same pain that begins between my shoulder blades towards the right side that goes up into my right jaw. sometimes it twinges in the side of my chest. I am 22 and it has been happening since I was 12. They did x-rays and bloodwork and gall bladder ultra-sound back then. Just went to emergency tonight because of it. The Dr. didnt run any tests, he just said he couldnt explain the neck/jaw pain but the back pain is probably just a muscular thing and to over-train muscles(20 mins weights 3x a week). Not sure how happy i am with his diagnosis. But hope it helps.

Comment by Danielle on Sat 18, Feb 2012 10:42pm:
I am 29 and have been suffering from the same thing for around 4 years now. One night the pain got so intense I went to the doctor. He said it was pulled chest wall muscles. I laughed at him thinking I've had pulled muscles before and this pain is way beyond a pulled muscle. I researched it and it turns out the symptoms line up with that. Intense pain in the back between the shoulder blades, sometimes in the chest too, and in the jaw. Pain is so bad you think you're having a heart attack. I am now convinced the doctor was right because I went almost a year with no problems, then got a bad flu a few weeks ago and my harsh coughing brought the pain back again. So to those of you suffering with the same thing, I'd say it was pulled chest wall muscles! Advil and a heating pad dulls the pain enough to get throw the 'attacks' and the heat shortens them by relaxing the muscles.

Comment by Kitt on Thu 23, Feb 2012 09:35pm:
I had a compression fracture T9, which blew out on 12/31/11. Couldn't walk without the assistance of a walker. Several weeks later had my first episode of "the" pain. Front at breast bone, going through to back. Tolerated it for 2 days and hit the ER. They ran all the tests, including stress and everything was fine. Much to the surprise of the docs because of being overweight but with excellent labs for trigs, ldl, hdl, etc. Had the fracture repaired 2/15. Immediate relief from upper back pain. However, because of it being a T9 I was warned the ribs and muscles would be brutally sore. Gotta' be a better word for "sore". Had stopped taking oxycodone apap out of fear of addiction and tried coping. Continued chest/back pain with frequency, intensity and duration of episode. Noticed a lot of belching, lack of appetite, weight loss and having to supplement my protonix with maalox which shouldn't have to happen as protonix has always worked for me. Called GI Tuesday, saw him Wednesday and he sent me for liver, pancreatic and bile labs along with a whole gut ultrasound. Thought it might be pulmonary and ruled that out when he had a listen. Also thought it might be something he called chrondro... I can't remember the name. Had an EGD done this morning. (love these guys---all of this in 24 hours). Esophagus a mess (possible Barrett's. Horrific bile build up (no gall bladder), and he did biopsies on 2 places on gut and 1 on esophagus. He said the bile alone would cause extreme pain. We'll see. Taking carafate 4 times daily to coat esophagus and gut so it can heal. Doing BRAT diet. Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. All decaf products and will probably live on plain pasta with a titch of salt and if I'm feeling brave a little smart balance. Eat 6 small meals daily, no nighttime eating...3 hours prior to bedtime and will remain upright and active at least an hour after eating. Will drink almond milk ( lactose intolerant) and water and decaf green tea. However, I will continue taking pain meds as I took a pill yesterday and the pain was hardly there. Talk about a tall order. But will do anything to relieve the pain and get answers. To see doctor in 2-3 weeks for a follow up and to get lab and ultrasound results. Will update as things progress (fingers crossed). Wish to address comment made by Kathy in November, 2010...transverse myelitis does not lead to MS. Hubby was diagnosed 2005. There is a link, but primarily as a flare or progression of the disease.

Comment by Mark on Fri 16, Mar 2012 07:34am:
I have had the same issues and pain since 2006, at that time I went to the Dr. the next day and he said it was heart burn, in the last two years i had an appointment with gastro, had the endo and colop, 3 prescriptions and nothing, Tylenol used to help after about an hour or so but now is not helping, I actually dont know what else to take, so heading to the Dr. next week, see what else can he think of. Good luck and stay strong

Comment by Kitt on Fri 16, Mar 2012 08:29am:
Hi Mark, I've done a lot of research and coincidentally, my therapist, whom I'd not seen in 9 months was going through the same thing. Also hospitalized for it. My non-medical conclusion and his medical conclusion is that it's bile reflux that is making life so miserable for the two of us. He's going for further testing to check the 18 ft of unseen intestines an EGD or colonoscopy cannot see. I think it's the camera endo. We hear talk about food allergies too. Though still using carafate (on 2nd bottle) I'm working with herbs for relief. Tried Aloe Vera Juice (yuke), but it works for some people. If on bp meds, beware. It will take it down even further. Stopped that. Have tried milk thistle but discontinued it so I could begin using Triphala and Slippery Elm Tea or Powder. Read up on these two for further info. Amazing stuff. But as with any herb, check for counter-indications with any of your current meds. (I did check with the pharmacist and they cleared me with the aloe vera joice, but after my episode of my bp hitting 90/60 with 48 pulse, I did my own research and discovered it is given to people with high blood pressure. Needing to get my guts squared away as I've got to have a right knee replacement done ASAP and know the pain meds will be my worse enemy. So working to get my guts healed and create a coating which will shield me from any other damage. My therapist was on nexium, etc for 21 years and managed to get off of it by drinking the Slippery Elm brew one or twice a day. That's my goal too, to get off Protonix. The best to everyone.

Comment by Judi on Fri 13, Apr 2012 09:29am:
I have pain between shoulder blades with excessive belching, sometimes feel as though food sticks in throat, ocassional nausea. Never have heartburd but was diagnosed with LPR couple of years ago. Had EGD recently, negative, no gallbladder, have small hiatal hernia, but docs say it's not a problem. Also went to ER, checked out ok for heart. Have seen 2 gastro docs, one said could be stone trapped in bile duct the 2nd one is sending me for ultrasound on liver and pancreas. Have been taking Omeprazole for 2 years for LPR and can't see that it does anything. Pain sometimes starts in back right after eating, and sometimes hours later, always worse after evening meal. Have lost a lotof weight very quickly which I don't mind, but it's not normal. This whole thing started suddenly after breakfast six weeks ago. WHAT IS THIS!!!

Comment by maureen on Thu 05, Jul 2012 03:12pm:
I have had this problem since a teenager. It is a kind of indigestion brought on by bad posture and sitting with shoulders tensed if you are stressed. I would get it if I was knitting or sewing and also if I was reading and not sat relaxed. The only thing that takes the pain off is Gaviscon liquid which proves it must be acid in stomach. Very painful and Yes, you think you are having heart attack.. Worse in a sitting position so I get up and walk about flexing my shoulders back. Very scary though!

Comment by becca on Sat 18, Aug 2012 05:05am:
hello all, iam 20 and having the same pains minus the jaw stuff. also mine is happening every day and seems to be getting way worse. i have never had anything like this before these last three weeks. also i take prilosec everyday for my ulcers and acid reflux. has anyone had any luck getting answers? please let me know, i cant afford another emergency room bill.

Comment by Ethel Schorn on Tue 22, Jan 2013 08:51am:
I have had sever pain in my jaw that radiates into the middle of the upper back and lasts about 5-10 minutes. I wonder if it could be caused by Terbinafine HCL I am taking for toe nail fungus. I had the exact type of pain when I was using Actonel, Boniva, and Evista for Osteoporosis. I have discontinued the last of them Evista for about 2 years. Could that still be the cause? I was under fosamix (sp) for years and that caused AF for years until I realized it was causing AF and stopped that. I am not free of AF for 5 years. So what caused my recent jaw pain that radiated into the upper back. It felt like it was in the bones of the upper back.

Comment by Barbara on Sat 27, Apr 2013 04:02pm:
Get your Vitamin D levels tested. I have had similar symptoms. GP tested my vit d levels and found out I was deficient. Deficiency of this vit can cause a lot of pain.

Comment by Susan Hardy on Sat 06, Sep 2014 12:58pm:
I have been having these similar symptoms for about 4 months. Scares me because I always think heart attack. It is like a gripping intense pain similar to a muscle spasm, square in between my should blades or slightly higher at upper back. Then it goes to my lower jaw, usually the right. Lasts several minutes, and the pain is so bad that I have to think about whether it is actually my back or my chest. But it is my back for sure. I have also lately noticed that if I drink milk at all at night, then go straight to bed I will wake up suddenly with that milk coming back up in my throat. I don't know if they are related. I am a 64 year old woman, non drinker, non smoker. Slightly overweight, but not excessively so.

Comment by Danielle on Sat 06, Sep 2014 10:53pm:
I've been dealing with these "attacks" on and off for years now. Although my doctor claims its from strained chest wall muscles (which I was starting to think it was too), I'm finding it's really being caused by acid reflux - which seems to be the same trigger for a lot of other people too. As soon as I feel it coming on I take an antacid and lay on ice packs between my shoulders. I used to lay on heating pad which would at least make the pain a bit manageable but the pain would still last about 2 hours. When I lay on on the ice packs it really does take the pain away quickly and I find it stops within 20-30 minutes. If I get the ice on it quickly it actually stops the "attack" before the pain gets to my jaw. I highly recommend using some ice packs the next time you feel it coming on!

Comment by morgan on Tue 30, Sep 2014 10:47pm:
i am a 20 year old woman and i have been having the same issues for over ten years. i start with pain in my back on the right side just below the shoulder blades. it starts dull and then becomes sharp. the pain is all in my right side. when its bad enough it will radiate into my jaw and my face. i do also belch a lot during this.the only relief i have found is laying on my stomach and arching my back and breathing deep breaths. it sounds and looks ridiculos but it works. i also get it in phases(thats what i call it) ill go a month without any attacks and then ill have four in a week and it will just cycle. i notice it after i eat certain foods mostly greasy or doughy foods. i went to a GI doctor got all the tests done for gallbladder issues and all the tests came back normal. im glad im not the only person going through this because i think my doctor thinks im crazy. i hope we find answers soon because its the worse pain in the world. there has to be some reason for this.

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