Change these activities:
– Activities to avoid and change,
– Strategies for quick relief,
– Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
– Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…
The rhomboid major and minor muscles refer pain between the shoulder blades while slouching. You can usually quick to get relief when the muscles are no longer chronically overstretched. So, changing your activities makes a big difference in getting results. Strengthening your back helps to make lasting changes that prevent the return of this problem,
Activities To Avoid or Change:
Change your seating. Get one that doesn’t make you want to slouch. Also, find one that has a softer back or doesn’t dig into your upper back. Make sure that your computer screen is at eye level and your hips are slightly above your knees when you sit.
This post has a couple of different approaches to seated posture that doesn’t pain your body. It discusses the ergonomics for the more active body and the ergonomics of those who need support to stay out of pain. It also has a number of accessories that help to support you.
If you’ve aggravated this by over reaching to a high spot, or repeatedly reaching to the back of a high shelf, Avoid that until this has calmed down. If you can’t avoid that work, adjust your position to create less stretch on this muscle.
For Temporary Relief:
Don’t use heat on this. It feels good to put a heating pad on this, but extended heating usually causes this to feel worse after a few hours. Using heat also tends to cause chronic pain associated with joints to worsen over time. Stretching under a hot shower does not seem to cause the problem that heat packs do.
This trigger point responds well to a little topical cream like IcyHot or Salon Pas, especially with Lidocaine. Make sure to cover the inside edge of the shoulder blade, as that is where the trigger points are focused. This is one of the few instances where the focus of pain and the trigger point are in the same area. Even when you are continuing to slump, this can be effective, but it works much better if you straighten up.
These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or doesn’t respond to these simple suggestions.
Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:
This is the classic stretch for the back of the shoulder. It targets rhomboids when you pull the shoulder blade on around toward the chest. It’s hard to use ice-and-stretch on this one, but it works well under the spray of a hot shower.
You may have extremely tight pecs and rounded shoulders. In that case, these trigger points may bother you while working at a desk or on a laptop. So, use the stretches in this post more than a couple of times a day. You’ll notice differences that last within a few days. This relief will get better and better over a few weeks.
For longer-lasting relief:
If your shoulder blades are winged out, you can use wall push-ups to relax the rhomboids. First, relax your chest and gently drop toward the wall.
Then, rressing your spine away from the wall to flex the pecs, relax the rhomboids and release those trigger points. Do ten reps, a couple of times a day.
Over time, this exercise will build the serratus anterior, lengthen the rhomboids and hold winged shoulder blades in their proper position against the ribs.
Gentle persistent exercises to build you back are a nice continuation in that direction. Just a few minutes every other day of lunges, supermans, Aquamans, deadlifts, and hyperextensions really help. I started doing this almost 20 years ago and it made a huge difference in getting rid of my nagging back pain. Many of my clients have quelled upper back pain with the same strategy. These exercises are a great compliment to the stretches in this post.
This post on breathing exercises is a proven therapy approach for retraining the breathing pattern, loosening fixated rib heads and releasing the underlying factors that perpetuate trigger points in muscles around the rib cage.
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Focus on mobilizing your upper torso and correcting any forward head posture. You might think that I’s suggest poses like Thread The Needle that stretch the rhomboid muscles. Usually, they are the victim of other imbalances in the shoulder girdle. Use a diverse number of poses from Camel to Warrior and Tree to help get your head positioned back over your hips, and this pattern goes away.
Even further, build spinal erectors so that it is comfortable to maintain an upright posture when you’re seated, and this imbalance will solve itself.
Planks are good for balancing this muscle with the serratus anterior so that the shoulder blades lay against the back without having tight pecs. Use the method in the wall presses above. Press the ribs up through the shoulder blades toward the ceiling. Then, ease the ribs back down to stretch the serratus anterior.
Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…
Other trigger point patterns
have similar areas of referral
and impaired activities.
Pain between the shoulder blades, especially chronic pain, is seldom rhomboids. Rhomboids usually dangle loosely and only produce pain when they are trapped between your ribs and a hard surface, like a wooden chair back, or you have severely rounded shoulders. If that’s not you, search through these posts about upper back pain between the shoulder blades.
This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.
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.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read, more accessible, and
to include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there will be inconsistency in formatting, content, and readability until we get the old posts updated. Please excuse our mess.