08 Jul How To Fix Rhomboid Pain
Are you dealing with a nagging discomfort in between your shoulder blade and your spine? No matter how many stretches you do, or how much time you spend foam rolling it, does it still persist? Pain in this area often gets labeled as a rhomboid issue because it is a relatively superficial muscle that you can appreciate from any anatomy chart. However, how to fix rhomboid pain sometimes may actually have little to do with the rhomboids. In this article, you’ll learn the ultimate secret of how to fix rhomboid pain by taking a look at a very specific movement!
Endless Nagging Between Your Shoulder Blades?: How To Fix Rhomboid Pain
Rhomboid pain is labeled as pain in between your shoulder blade and your spine (interscapular pain) that can even refer up to the base of your neck or down the middle of your back. It is often described as a nagging dull ache or pain, pressure, knifelike, pulling, or even a burning sensation (is that really rhomboid pain? Food for thought). You’ll often find people dealing with discomfort in this area wanting to fidget around in efforts to feel better – moving their head and neck around trying to stretch, rounding their shoulders, squeezing their shoulder blades back, or twisting their upper back, you name it. The occasional soreness in this region is nothing to be concerned about, especially if you did a hard upper back workout or carried a backpack for a long time. However, dealing with constant discomfort or pressure in this area can become a real nuisance.
For some people with chronic cases of mid scapular pain, they may have been told they’re dealing with Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS), which is typically a diagnosis of exclusion (meaning everything else has been ruled OUT). MPS is tricky and complicated because it can include a wide variety of symptoms, but it is often labeled as symptoms that cause pain over different parts of the body. Specifically, people will say they have ‘trigger points’ in their muscles, which are really sore and sensitive to touch and pressure. For some, the rhomboid region can get really sensitive and feel this way (1)!
A forewarning, ‘trigger points’ is a sensitive subject amongst clinicians (pun intended) and can cause a ton of heated debate whether they are real or not and if we can actually palpate them because we still don’t fully understand what they are. However, we cannot and should not deny people from acknowledging what they’re feeling and how they’re trying to describe and communicate that to us! If you want to learn more about trigger points, click here. There also may be a connection to pain and discomfort in the rhomboid region when doing continuous computer work, here is an interesting read on it (2). With that being said, we wanted to set the record straight on posture and computer work. If you believe your rhomboid issue is related to your posture and your computer work, definitely check out the read below.
What Else Can Contribute To This Pain?
Just because you’re dealing with discomfort in between your shoulder blade and your spine doesn’t mean we have to point the finger at the rhomboids every time! To fix rhomboid pain, we need to take a look at and consider all of the other anatomical structures in the area. This includes…
- Cervical spine
- Thoracic spine
- Scapulothoracic joint & shoulder joint posture/alignment
- Cervical and thoracic nerves
- Cervical & thoracic discs
- Scapula nerves (dorsal scapular nerve entrapment)
- Paraspinal, Trapezius, Pecs, & Serratus Anterior muscles
This list can seem overwhelming, but it is definitely worthwhile to consider all potential contributing anatomical structures so that nothing is missed (especially in chronic cases that have failed targeted treatments) (3).
How To Fix Rhomboid Pain: Improve Thoracic Mobility
If there was only one movement assessment I had to pick when it comes to evaluating interscapular pain, I’m going to look at thoracic rotation mobility. Poor thoracic rotation mobility can wreak havoc on the body and can definitely refer pain and discomfort to the rhomboid region. Poor thoracic rotation mobility is often coupled with poor scapular mobility/stability, which only contributes to the issue more! I have found that simply improving thoracic rotation mobility can improve interscapular discomfort. Be sure to watch the full video to learn not just how to assess, but also how to improve thoracic rotation mobility and potentially fix rhomboid pain!
Thoracic Spine Mobility Overhaul
Thoracic spine mobility is a precursor to optimal neck health, shoulder health, and so much more. Yet, the average person is bound to be stiff and limited in this region and the rest of their mid back! We can blame 21st-century workplaces and lifestyle habits, but the good thing is the thoracic spine and mid back region respond extremely well to the right dose of exercises. If your thoracic spine mobility is limited and your entire upper body is paying for it, this program will get you moving better and feeling better! Learn more HERE.
Improve Rhomboid Pain: Exercise Promoting Thoracic Rotation Mobility
Open Books With Pillow Support
Rhomboid Fix [P]Rehab Workout
In efforts to fix rhomboid pain, you can’t rule out the rhomboids after all! Below you’ll find our favorite rhomboid stretch that hits the muscles like no other!
Fix Rhomboid Pain With Serratus Anterior Activation Exercises
When speaking of muscle actions, the rhomboids are responsible for scapular elevation and downward rotation. Ideal scapula position is not excessive downward rotation, however, this is not uncommon and it can cause mid-back, neck, and even shoulder issues. An important antagonist of the rhomboids is the serratus anterior, which according to some schools of thought has a myofascial connection to the rhomboids. Along with improving thoracic rotation mobility and rhomboid stretching, we always give serratus anterior exercises for optimal scapula mobility and stability! Below you will find one of our favorites to help fix rhomboid pain.
Shoulder Flexion On Wall With Foam Roller
The Neck and Mid Back [P]Rehab Program is a physical therapist developed, step-by-step program that teaches you how to optimize your neck & mid back health. This 2-phase program will expose you to various neck & mid back mobility, strength, and stabilization exercises supported by science. This program will bulletproof this region for anything life throws at you! Learn more HERE
Interscapular pain can be a real nuisance, however, you now have a better idea of what can be contributing, what to assess (thoracic rotation), and what exercises to follow up to ultimately fix rhomboid pain! If you are looking for extra guidance and the ability to communicate with us, definitely check out our Neck & Mid Back [P]Rehab Program!
- Desai MJ, Saini V, Saini S. Myofascial Pain Syndrome: A Treatment Review. Pain and Therapy. 2013 June; 2(1): 21-36
- Yoo WG: Changes in pressure pain threshold of the upper trapezius, levator scapular and rhomboid muscles during continuous computer work. J Phys Ther Sci, 2013, 25: 1021–1022.
- Sultan HE, Younis El-tantawi GA. Role of dorsal scapular nerve entrapment in unilateral interscapular pain. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013;94:1118-1125.