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Rhomboid Major and Minor Muscles – Functional Anatomy

Rhomboid Muscles

The anatomy of the rhomboid major and minor seems straightforward. These muscles attach the upper thoracic and lower cervical vertebrae to the scapula. Consequently, these muscles trap the ribs, sternum, and clavicle between their attachments.

Brief Anatomy Overview

Rhomboid Minor

Origin

  • the lower nuchal ligament, the supraspinous ligaments, and spinous processes along C7 and T1.

Insertion

  • the medial border of the scapula near the root of the spine of the scapula

Function

  • retraction of the scapula, assist in downward rotation of the scapula, stabilizes scapula during flexion and abduction

Rhomboid Major:

Origin

  • the supraspinous ligaments, and spinous processes along

Insertion

  • the medial border of the scapula near the root of the spine of the scapula

Function

  • retraction of the scapula, assist in downward rotation of the scapula, stabilizes scapula during flexion and abduction

The rhomboid major and minor are usually thought of as retracting the scapula. Surprisingly, they are very active in stabilizing the scapula during abduction and flexion of the humerus. These muscles also retract and stabilize the scapula in labored breathing. There are no statistically significant variations other than occasionally being fused into one muscle.

Innervation

  • C4-C5 – dorsal scapular nerve
Rhomboids with extrinsic back, shoulder and brachial muscles

Attachment Details

The anatomy of the rhomboid major and minor seems straightforward. These muscles attach the upper thoracic and lower cervical vertebrae to the scapula. Consequently, these muscles trap the ribs, sternum, and clavicle between their attachments.

Details of Function

This picture shows the rhomboids with the other extrinsic back muscles (purple). They suspend the scapula and clavicle, which provides a platform for operating the upper extremity. Consequently, the scapulohumeral muscles (red) suspend and move the humerus.

The rhomboid major and minor are usually thought of as retracting the scapula. Surprisingly, they are very active in stabilizing the scapula during abduction and flexion of the humerus. These muscles also retract and stabilize the scapula in labored breathing.

Anomalies, Etc.

The studies that were reviewed didn’t reveal any statistically significant variations, other than occasionally fused into one muscle.

Wikipedia entry for Rhomboid Minor. Wikipedia entry for Rhomboid Major.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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