Rhomboid Muscle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Exercises, Prevention

Each one of us has had muscle pain at some point in our lives. Some people, however, experience worsening and commonly occurring muscle pain in certain areas. Among this is rhomboid muscle pain, which is more common and worse than any other pain and is one of the most frustrating pains. There are many people who don’t know where exactly is rhomboid muscle situated, but they have felt pain in that region at some time or other for sure.

Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Pain of the rhomboid muscle is the pain, which is present in the upper back region just beneath the neck and between the upper shoulder blades. Rhomboid muscle helps in controlling the arms and shoulders. If you have spent an entire day carrying heavy load, then the rhomboid muscle bears the brunt of it. The rhomboid muscle is shaped like a triangle and is a very thin muscle. It is a skeletal muscle that is connected to the bone and helps in movement of the joints. The rhomboid muscles include rhomboid minor muscle and rhomboid major muscle.

Rhomboid muscle connects the spine to the medial edges of the shoulder blades along with helping in maintaining a good posture. If these muscles are used excessively then it causes pain. This excessive use can result from playing sports, such as golf or tennis and can also occur from carrying heavy load on the upper back and even wrong movements, such as trying to reach for something heavy from a high shelf. All the muscles in the body are composed of many tiny muscle fibers. They have to move in unison for movement of the joints and limbs. All these tiny muscle fibers build up the muscle and hence are very strong. However, if isolated and left on their own they become weak and become more susceptible to tear. This is commonly seen when an individual goes to gym. Pain in the rhomboid muscle causes difficulty in the patient in moving his/her arms and can be described as mild to severe pain in the upper back. Treatment for Rhomboid Muscle Pain comprises of rest, cold compresses and medications.

Causes of Rhomboid Muscle Pain

  • If a person bends over awkwardly or swings a golf club violently, or twists his/her body, or lifts too heavily at the gym then it may cause accidental tear of multiple fibers resulting in pain and loss of movement.
  • Patient can tear the rhomboid muscle through a sudden or awkward movement or might have pulled the muscle.
  • Rupture of the rhomboid muscle can also cause pain.
  • The rhomboid muscle may also be compressing on a nerve resulting in pain.
  • Few of the patients can experience pain when taking a deep breath. This can happen due to the tender area being touched or extended and rhomboid tear pain will be experienced .
  • Lying on one side for long hours or incorrect sleeping posture may also cause rhomboid muscle pain.

Possible Causes of Rhomboid Muscle:

  • Sitting on chair for long time with poor posture especially from prolonged use of computer
  • Sitting in a car for long time can strain your rhomboid muscles causing inflammation of the rhomboid muscle.

Signs & Symptoms of Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Signs & Symptoms of Rhomboid Muscle Pain

  • Patient experiences pain and loss of movement. This is called as shoulder blade pain or rhomboid pain.
  • Patient will also have swelling as the body is healing from rhomboid muscle pain. This will result in more discomfort.
  • In some patients, there is compression of a nerve leading to acute shooting pain resulting in painful and difficult movements.

Treatment for Rhomboid Muscle Pain

  • Rest is important in healing of the sprained rhomboid muscle. Patient should try to relax and rest as much as possible. The tear in the muscle occurs as a result of the body’s straining against resistance. If the patient does anything strenuous then it causes more tears, which will hinder the recovery process of rhomboid muscle pain.
  • To reduce swelling due to sprained rhomboid muscle, medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin not only help with the swelling, but also help in relieving the pain. These medications help in reducing the swelling by thinning the blood.
  • Cold compresses also help in alleviating the rhomboid muscle pain and swelling. Application of ice bags or ice cubes wrapped in a towel should be done for not more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Rehab should be started after the rhomboid muscle pain has started to recede. Patient should be encouraged to do gentle stretches and movements. This will help in regaining flexibility and range of motion and helps in gaining complete recovery.
  • One way of gently stretching the rhomboid muscles is interlacing the fingers behind the back and gently and slowly pushing them out backward.
  • Another method of stretching is to hold one arm straight across the chest. This arm should be brought closer with the help of other arm, so that you can feel a gentle stretching in the upper back.
  • Rehab with gentle stretching exercises will help in gradually providing relief from rhomboid muscle pain, but be sure not to overexert.
  • Patient should also avoid lifting heavy objects and making sudden movements.
  • A physiotherapist will help in rehab and in mild exercises of the rhomboid muscles.
  • Rhomboid muscle pain usually starts to subside in 2-3 weeks and the patient can return back to normal activity.
  • If the pain persists and if you suspect that the healing process of rhomboid muscle pain is not going as it should, then a physician needs to be consulted.

How Long Does it Take To Recover From Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

Rhomboid muscle pain can last anywhere from 2 to 3 days to more than 2 weeks depending on the severity and the treatment. With proper timely treatment and rest, one can recover from rhomboid muscle pain within 2 to 3 days, and if the rhomboid muscle pain is severe and no treatment is undertaken then it can last for even 2 weeks.

Treatment for Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Exercises for Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Exercises #1: Upper Back and Neck Stretch for Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Lock the fingers of both your hands and stretch them forward at the level of the chest with the palms of both the hands facing forward while in locked position. Now slowly bend your neck down such that your chin is touching the chest and hold this position for a couple of minutes. You can even try moving your neck up and down for the extra stretch while keeping you hands outstretched in front with fingers in locked position.

Exercises #2: Neck Tilt Exercise for Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Stand straight and slowly tilt you neck to the side such that your ears are right above the shoulder and not in front of your shoulder. Also make sure that you avoid raising the shoulder. Hold this position for a 5-6 seconds and then tilt your neck to the other side. Repeat this exercise for 8-10 times.

Exercises #3: Neck Rotation Exercise for Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Stand straight and slowly rotate you neck to one side such that your chin is right above the shoulder or as much as possible. Hold for a couple of seconds and then rotate the neck to the other side following the same procedure. Repeat this exercise 8-10 times.

Exercise #4: Stretching The Shoulder Blade Muscles for Relief from Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Stand in between a door frame. Grip the sides of the door fame with your palms at the shoulder level and lunge forward and then backward. This exercise is useful for rhomboid muscle pain, shoulder pain, mid back pain, upper back pain and neck pain.

Prevention of Rhomboid Muscle Pain

Prevention is better than cure, as the old adage goes, and is especially advisable for any person who has already experienced rhomboid muscle pain. Some of the tips in avoiding or preventing rhomboid muscle sprain include:

  • Always warming up before any type of exercise, as warming up and stretching helps in loosening the muscles and improving blood circulation and flexibility; thereby preventing any serious injury.
  • It is advisable to exercise indoors in very cold climates.
  • Always practice good and proper technique when playing sports, climbing or lifting.
  • Rhomboid strains or spasms is best be prevented by warming up properly and doing stretching exercises before activities such as overhead movements, swimming golf, tennis, etc.
  • Training not only helps in increasing the flexibility and overall strength, but also helps in preventing muscle tears in the future.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 17, 2020

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