Are you experiencing a nagging or painful discomfort in between your shoulder blades or mid back? Maybe you’ve tried stretching, foam rolling, anti-inflammatories, massage, and changing your posture or desk setup, and yet this discomfort still exists. What you could be experiencing is an issue with a muscle called the rhomboid, a spinal support muscle that spans from your shoulder blade to your spine, or maybe not?

In this article, we will examine some potential causes for “rhomboid” pain, and provide some strengthening exercises for rhomboid pain that are useful in finally getting rid of that nagging discomfort for good!

Rhomboid Pain & Mid back Anatomy 

Pain in the mid back is often labeled as “rhomboid pain”. However, what is the rhomboid exactly? And is this actually the cause of pain? The rhomboid is a collective term for the TWO muscles (the rhomboid major and the rhomboid minor) that run from the mid thoracic spine to the shoulder blade. They serve as support muscles for the spine and shoulder blade and assist with posture management as well as shoulder and mid back mobility. These muscles are especially important for any activity involving throwing, tossing, or large arm movements – meaning you’ll definitely want these if you play sports or simply want to pull that large item down off the top shelf!



However, not all mid back pain is created equal, and it doesn’t always stem from the rhomboid muscle group itself although we often want to blame this muscle group. So stop smashing this muscle group with a lacrosse ball! Other anatomical structures can be the cause of mid back pain, including:


  • Cervical spine (neck)
  • Thoracic spine (mid back)
  • Ribs
  • Nerve entrapment (especially if you are experiencing a burning sensation in this area)
  • Disc herniation of the spine
  • Other muscle structure strain including trapezius, pecs, serratus, or paraspinal muscles


The spinal column is made up of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. It’s important to appreciate each section and how they all interact.


Rhomboid or mid back pain can feel like nagging, discomfort, burning, or tightness. A lot of people with this type of pain describe an “inability to get comfortable” and often will try to fidget or move their arm or spine in several different positions to try and alleviate the pain. This is a very classic sign of rhomboid or mid back pain, and can be very annoying indeed!


Importance of Mid Back Mobility for Rhomboid Pain

The importance of addressing thoracic mobility to combat rhomboid and mid back pain cannot be understated. Reduced thoracic mobility has been shown to be a strong predictor for neck and shoulder pain (1), and addressing restrictions in this area can be a powerful way to move the needle for improving general spinal pain and pressure as well as improving functional movement of the arms and upper body. In addition, mobilization of the thoracic spine, both through thrust and non-thrust means, has been shown to produce positive effects on the severity of neck and shoulder pain, improve range of motion, and reduce self-reported disability (2).


neck and mid back rehab thoracic outlet syndrome prehab guys

If you’re looking to tackle that mid back mobility and build that crucial strength on top of that mobility, check out our 8-week Neck & Mid Back Rehab program to truly get after it! Focused on mobility needed through your thoracic spine as well as strength, this is the program you have been looking for! Ditch that lacrosse ball for good! 


To summarize, improving the mobility of the thoracic spine has SEVERAL benefits for improving pain and discomfort through the mid back! We have created this YouTube video below to help you learn how to assess thoracic spinal mobility restrictions, and some wonderful exercises to start to unlock your upper back!



Strengthening Exercises for Rhomboid Pain & Mid back Pain

The fun doesn’t stop there! Once we have started to unlock the upper back and improve pain, it is very important to strengthen through the musculature and support structures to prevent future incidents of pain and nagging discomfort. Thoracic exercise has shown to be extremely beneficial in both reported pain reduction and improvements in overall function (3) even in the face of chronic, long standing pain. Because once we have reduced our pain, we want to keep it that way, right?! Of course! And we can do that through strengthening! 



exercises to improve your thoracic spine mobility the prehab guys


These exercises are sometimes known as ‘active mobility’, meaning we are taking the mobility improvements we have made and strengthening INTO that newfound motion. This can really be helpful in muscular control and overall strength and stability. We also know that with good spinal flexibility and strength, we will be able to perform overhead motions such as reaching and pulling a whole lot easier!


Prehab Membership The Prehab Guys


There are tons of great thoracic and mid back strengthening exercises out there, but here are a few of our favorites that can also be found in our Neck & Mid Back Rehab and Prehab programs to get you started on the journey to a pain free mid back!



To add in some resistance with that mobility, try the exercise below. This exercise will target the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine as well as the important scapular muscles (muscles of our shoulder blade). Be sure to also check out the Thoracic Archer below, getting added benefit from the stability required from the scapular region as you work on your thoracic rotation, did someone say ‘active mobility!?!’




Last but not least, don’t forget the importance of strengthening those shoulder muscles since the shoulder blades interact closely with the mid back and thoracic spine.



If you’re looking to learn more about how to improve your shoulder mobility, be sure to dive into the podcast below and also take a peek at our Overhead Mobility Program through the Prehab app! The importance of shoulder mobility can not be stressed enough when looking at how to improve mid back mobility and decrease that pesky rhomboid pain for good!



prehab podcast the prehab guys


Closing Thoughts 

Rhomboid and mid back pain can stem from various different sources, however the goal is the same – keep the pain away! We hope the exercises for mobility and strengthening in this article will help to get rid of that nagging uncomfortable “rhomboid” pain, and pave the way for improvements as well as doing those activities you love. A healthy spine is one that moves well and pain free and has the muscular strength to do so, and that’s what we want to see for you!




  1. Lau KT, Cheung KY, Chan KB, Chan MH, Lo KY, Chiu TT. Relationships between sagittal postures of thoracic and cervical spine, presence of neck pain, neck pain severity and disability. Man Ther. 2010;15:457–62.
  2. Young JL, Walker D, Snyder S, Daly K. Thoracic manipulation versus mobilization in patients with mechanical neck pain: a systematic review. J Man Manip Ther. 2014;22:141–53.
  3. Choi EH, Hur JK, Yang JI, Park DS. Poster 98: The Effect of Thoracic Exercise Program on Thoracic Pain, Kyphosis, and Spinal Mobility. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2005;86(9):e23. doi:


About The Author

Taryn Beaumont, PT, DPT, CLT, CF-L1, CNC

[P]rehab Writer & Content Creator

Taryn was born and raised in Maine and still resides there with her fiancé and son. Taryn received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Husson University in 2010, and also carries a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology and Human Movement Science. She is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, a Certified Crossfit Level 2 Trainer, and a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach. Taryn has 12+ years of experience in many different realms of PT, from the young athlete to the geriatric patient. Most recently she is employed with a home health PT company and is working toward her Advanced Competency in Home Health. Taryn considers herself a ‘lifelong learner’. She has special interests in oncology care and breast health, dry needling, and Crossfit training. In her free time, Taryn enjoys fitness, spending time with her family, continuing education, writing, and reading, and is very excited to be a part of The [P]rehab team to educate and empower others to take control of their health and wellness.


Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.


About the author : Taryn Beaumont PT, DPT, CLT, CF-L2, CNC

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