Often when we feel pain in our shoulders, we change the position of our neck, arms, and shoulders. In most cases, this fixes the issue. However, at times, shoulder pain can be persistent especially when it is associated with symptoms elsewhere in your body such as chest or stomach pains.
In such cases, this pain is called referred pain meaning that the problem is elsewhere in your body and not exactly where you feel it. So what causes right/left shoulder pain after eating?
Why does my shoulder hurt after I eat?
Pain in your shoulders after having a meal may seem like an unlikely occurrence but if you have a digestive or pancreatic problem, then this might be more common than you think. While many conditions can cause shoulder pain, the most common ones are:
1. Heart Attack
Eating too much, especially if your meal was unhealthy – lots of sugar or greasy food – can trigger a heart attack. Pain in your left shoulder or arm is one of a common symptom of a heart attack.
Heart attack has a few other warning signs and its a serious medical conditions that requires immediate help!
The pancreas helps in food digestion by providing enzymes that mix with food. These enzymes aren’t active until they reach our small intestine.
However at times, these enzymes become active in your pancreas hence feed and digest pancreatic tissues causing swelling that damages pancreatic blood vessels thus causing inflammation of the pancreas.
Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, rapid pulse, fever, pain during eating (not only after it).
Pancreatitis is also a serious condition and you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible. Read more about pancreatitis on Mayo Clinic
This is probably the most common and least serious reason of shoulder pain after eating.
Chest pain after eating too much happens to most people at least a few times. In this case the pain usually goes away within a few hours.
Too much sugar intake, eating greasy foods – like junk foods -, even drinking too much sugary drinks, alcohol or coffee can cause chest discomfort.
Sometimes this can cause a referred pain in your shoulder blades after eating, even though the real problem is in your chest or stomach.
If you are experiencing chest or shoulder pain after eating regularly – two times a week or more – you might have acid reflux or in more serious cases GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Reflux is a common digestive condition that damages the esophagus’s lower lining. It’s caused when stomach acid frequently flows into your esophagus. This back flow of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus.
Many people experience acid reflux regularly. Mild reflux symptoms can occur every now and then but if they happen more often, you should consult with a doctor.
Heartburn is the main symptom of both acid reflux and GERD that causes a burning painful sensation that may cause pain in your shoulder blade and neck after eating.
After we chew and swallow food, it travels to our esophagus down into the stomach where acids break it into small digestible pieces. Now, there’s a flat muscle between our esophagus and stomach opening called the sphincter that allows food to pass into the stomach and immediately closes to prevent acid into our esophagus. If this muscle doesn’t close fully or opens without any reason, acid flows into your esophagus and can damage the soft tissues.
This condition may also be aggravated by smoking, eating late at night or large meal, taking certain medications like aspirin and drinking alcoholic beverages.
People with reflux may also feel regurgitation after eating.
Other symptoms are nausea, bad breath, chest pain, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, sensation of a lump in one’s throat, etc.
Pregnancy, obesity, delayed stomach emptying, hiatal hernia and tissue disorders like scleroderma are the risk factors of acid reflux.
How to relieve shoulder pain after eating?
To do this, you’ll first need to identify the root cause of your pain. Then, you can begin taking the necessary steps needed. You should, therefore, consult with your doctor to diagnose the problem then he/she can advise on the right treatments.
All in all if the pain in your shoulder happens after eating, chances are it can be managed by changing your lifestyle.
Note that certain foods can trigger heartburn like bread and gluten, alcohol, caffeine, chocolates, spicy, fatty, and sugary foods. Therefore, it’s wise that you keep a food diary if you can’t work with a dietitian.
There are also over the counter medicines you can try such as acid blockers.
You might also have to undertake physical therapy to correct postures which involves exercises and stretches that strengthen your core muscles. Yoga, tai chi, and Pilate exercises are particularly beneficial to help manage reflux.