Rhomboid Muscle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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Manage or prevent rhomboid muscle pain by understanding what it is, its treatment, and how it can be avoided.

RELATED: How To Keep Your Back Muscles Healthy As You Age

In this article:

  1. What Are the Rhomboid Muscles?
  2. Where Is Rhomboid Muscle Pain Felt?
  3. What Are Rhomboid Muscle Pain Symptoms?
  4. Who Can Suffer from Rhomboid Muscle Pain?
  5. What Are the Different Rhomboid Muscle Pain Relief Options?
  6. How Long Does It Take Before It Heals?
  7. How Can You Prevent Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

Everything You Need to Know About Rhomboid Muscle Pain

What Are the Rhomboid Muscles?

The rhomboid muscles are the rhombus-shaped muscles located in the upper back. They connect the shoulders to the spine and our rib cage.

Where Is Rhomboid Muscle Pain Felt?

Rhomboid muscle pain manifests under the nape just between the spine and the shoulder blades. It’s commonly called upper back pain or shoulder blade discomfort.

When the rhomboid muscle hurts, it can also bring discomfort to the mid-upper back, the back of the shoulders, and in the area above the shoulder blades.

What Are Rhomboid Muscle Pain Symptoms?

The pain can present as a strain, spasm, or shooting pain in the affected area. Other symptoms include the following:

  • Upper back tenderness
  • Tightness, swelling, and muscle knots around the rhomboid muscle
  • Pain when breathing
  • Immobility of the affected area
  • Pain when moving the muscle
  • A popping or grinding sound when shoulder blades are moved

Who Can Suffer from Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

People who sit behind their desks for long periods of time, have improper posture, sleep in uncomfortable positions, and engage in activities that might overstretch or tear muscles are at risk.

Activities that lead to the overuse of the rhomboid muscles (tennis, golf, rowing) and work that require you to extend the arms above your head for long durations (lifting heavy objects) can also cause this kind of pain.

RELATED: Shoulder Joint Structure, Muscles, And How To Treat Effusion | Glenohumeral Joint

What Are the Different Rhomboid Muscle Pain Relief Options?

man holding cold pack | Rhomboid Muscle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment | rhomboid muscle pain symptoms

If you’re experiencing rhomboid muscle pain, rest and refraining from activities that can worsen your condition are of utmost importance.

  • RICE Method.
    • Rest – Give your arms and shoulder the much-needed time off and minimize the use of these muscles.
    • Ice – Apply a cold compress on your shoulder for about 20 minutes at a time, 3-5 times a day. Make sure to ice the affected area right away or as soon as possible after the pain arises.
    • Compression – Use a bandage on the affected area to apply enough pressure and reduce swelling.
    • Elevation – It would help to keep your chest and shoulders lifted or supported with pillows when you lie down or sleep.
  • Analgesics. For quick rhomboid muscle pain relief and inflammation management, you can also pop over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Topical Pain Relievers (sprays, creams, and gels). These pain relievers are believed to have a lower risk of side effects because the drug skips the gut and less of their composition is absorbed into the blood.
  • Oils and Balms. If you want to go with a more natural way of treating the pain, you can mix essential and carrier oils to create your very own soothing balm.
  • Hot and Cold Compress. You can also apply heat compress to the area after a few days of icing it. As with cold therapy, apply the warm compress or heating pad for about 20 minutes at a time, 3-5 times a day—you can employ an alternate hot-cold therapy.

Lastly, here are a few simple rhomboid muscle pain relief exercises to alleviate the discomfort, aid in the recovery, and prevent it from happening again:

Side Arm Stretch

  • At shoulder height, reach to your left side with your right arm crossing the front of your body
  • With your left palm facing up, place your left arm on your elbow crease and pull your right arm gently close to your body. Hold the position for about 30 seconds.
  • Do the left hand.
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 reps on each hand.

Rhomboid Stretch

  • Extend your arms fully to your front stacking your right hand over the left.
  • Reach forward as you move your hips to bring your right shoulder blade up and the left one down.
  • Maintain the position for about 30 seconds.
  • Perform it on the other side.
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 reps on each side.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

  • Stand or sit straight with your arms on your side.
  • Brings your shoulder blades backward squeezing them together.
  • Stay in this position for about 5 to 10 seconds and revert to your original position.
  • Repeat the process at least a minute.

Neck Rotations

  • Stand or sit with your shoulders back and back straight.
  • Turn your head to the right as you exhale, feeling the movement of your neck joint and muscles.
  • Turn as far as possible without straining and hold the position for about 30 seconds.
  • Return to the original position as you inhale.
  • Perform it on the other side.
  • Repeat for 3 to 5 reps on each side.

 Upper Back and Neck Stretch

  • Extend your arms, palms facing away, to your front at chest level and lock your fingers together.
  • Bring your chin down to your chest gently feeling the movement of your neck joint and muscles. Hold this position for about 30 seconds.
  • Look up and lift your head up feeling the movement of your neck joint and muscles. Hold for about 30 seconds.
  • With paced breathing, bend your neck up and down 3 to 5 times.

How Long Does It Take Before It Heals?

The duration of the pain is heavily dependent on the severity of the strain. It takes about three weeks for mild strains to recover and several months for more serious ones.

While recovering do not lift heavy objects and avoid taxing activities. Remember to ease your way back to your usual activities after recovering completely.

How Can You Prevent Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

Protect yourself from getting rhomboid muscle pain by following these simple tips below:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Always maintain a good posture when sitting, standing, or walking.
  3. Exercise regularly.
  4. Always warm up and cool down when hitting the gym.
  5. Master the proper technique and form of sports you play.
  6. Do not lift a heavy backpack on one shoulder.
  7. When at work, allot time for quick stretch breaks to loosen up your muscles and release tension build-up.

 

Here is a quick video from How to DIY on how to stretch your rhomboids:

Rest right away and avoid activities that can worsen it if you’re experiencing rhomboid muscle pain. If the pain remains even after following some of the methods mentioned above, it’s best to have it looked at by a doctor.

For recurring pain, on the other hand, you can try working with a personal trainer as it may be caused by imbalances in your body.

Support overall health with naturally formulated body supplements. Try Vitamin D3 from Dr. Seeds.

Do you have any other questions about rhomboid muscle pain? Shoot them in the comments section below!

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