Are you suffering from back pain every now and then? Perhaps you have the habit of slumping when you are working on your desk.
If this is true, a certain muscle group in your back is adversely affected. Since you have been doing this for a long while, you will surely have upper back pain.
The name given to this particular muscle group by the scientific community is the rhomboid muscles.
This group of muscles has an important function in your body. They are an indication whether you have a good posture or not, and could also give an indication of your upper back’s state of health.
What Are Your Rhomboid Muscles?
Your rhomboid muscles are your upper back muscles that are located in between your spine and your two shoulder blades.
The muscle fibers that comprise your rhomboids are positioned diagonally. If they contract, your shoulder blades or Scapula are pulled together.
These muscles have a rhombus shape, thus their given name. Aside from pulling your Scapula, they are also responsible for rotating your shoulder blades downwards. This action provides stability to your shoulder complex.
According to Musclesused.com, the rhomboid muscles are grouped into two, the Major rhomboid and the Minor rhomboid.
Connecting your shoulder blade to your backbone is the small skeletal muscle called Major rhomboid while the Minor rhomboid is also a small skeletal muscle that connects your shoulder blades to your spinal column’s vertebrae.
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Rhomboid Pain?
When there are tears and strains in your upper back muscles, moving your arms while stretching will cause terrible pain.
Our regular movements can even be drastically affected. Rhomboid pain can be felt in between your shoulders just under the neck and it can be severe.
According to Doctors Health Press.com, although there are several causes of rhomboid pain, there is just one underlying cause – the overuse and overworking of these muscles over a period of time. Improper posture can also be one underlying factor in rhomboid pain.
But apart from these two reasons, rhomboid pain can be caused by the following:
- Poor standing and sitting posture
- Carrying a backpack that is too heavy and in just one shoulder
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Rowing motion
- Lifting objects that are too heavy for you
- Twisting movements at the waist
- Working with your arms above your head
- Bending over at your waistline
- Sleeping on just one side
What Are The Symptoms Of Rhomboid Pain?
Like any other muscle strain, rhomboid pain has many symptoms that will show you if there is any pain coming.
These symptoms vary widely and can be only mild be can sometimes be severe where you will be forced to stop all your movements.
Here are some of the symptoms of rhomboid pain that you should be aware of.
- Discomfort in your upper back muscles
- Grinding noise at your shoulders when moving
- Swelling of your scapula
- Pain that radiates across your upper back
- Pain when using and moving your arms and shoulders
- Pain when you take a deep breath
- Tightness in your upper back muscles
- Having a posture with rounded shoulders
- Shooting pain running across your spinal column
- Upper back muscles feel tender to the touch
- Upper back muscle spasms that are intense and deep
- Aches and pains at your shoulder blades
Why Are You Having Pain In Your Rhomboid Muscles When Breathing?
If your shoulder blades feel pain when you are taking a deep breath, something is amiss.
Since your scapula has nothing to do with your respiration, you should not feel any pain when you are deep breathing.
According to Just Answer.com, your rhomboid muscles are only involved with the movements of your shoulders. So, normally, they will not be affected when you take a deep breath.
But if there is something wrong with your upper back muscles, you will certainly feel some pain while breathing.
It is quite possible that a strain in your scapula may also cause strain in the deeper muscles of your chest which are involved in your respiration.
These are your intercostal muscles. However, under normal conditions, a strain in your rhomboid muscles won’t cause pain when you are taking a deep breath.
Why Do You Feel Rhomboid Pain After Sleeping?
This is the common problem to those who are suffering from Rhomboid pain.
Your upper back is the link that connects many moving parts on your shoulder region.
The weight of your head which is approximately 15 pounds is being supported by your neck.
Meanwhile, your shoulders are forced to deal with the stresses and loads that you carry in your arms.
Additionally, your mid and lower back are helping to move the other parts of your body.
Body Zone.com says that rhomboid pain is associated with waking up from sleep and can be described as:
- The pain is sudden and unbearable
- The pain is so intense that you are afraid to move
- The pain is so sharp that it makes you gasp
- You are forced to hold your breath to avoid feeling the pain
- The pain in the upper and mid back section of the body feels like it is “crunchy”
Episodic back pain, according to the same website, it may appear after sleeping and can be triggered as your body adapts to wrong posture, mechanical stress, and inefficient body motions.
The following symptoms may occur:
- Sitting for long periods at a time
- Unexpected pain in the upper back when moving
- Unable to rest because of upper back pain when sleeping
- Strain from wrong posture stress or pain when carrying or lifting loads
- Working, bending or standing in repetitive motions
- Feeling upper back pain all night for no apparent reason
What Are The Best Rhomboid Exercises That Can Prevent Upper Back Pain?
According to Livestrong.com, the best exercises that will prevent upper back pain are those which involve other muscles instead of just focusing on your rhomboids.
Here are some of the exercises that you may want to consider:
Stretching Your Posterior Capsule
By performing this exercise, you will be able to stretch your rhomboids, the connective tissues around them and your rotator cuffs.
These muscles will be relaxed and after doing these exercises, their soreness and fatigue will be alleviated.
Start this exercise by standing and horizontally crossing your left arm on your body. And then with your left arm, try reaching your right by pressing the right forearm against the left forearm.
Increase your stretch by pushing the left shoulder to the left. While doing this set, try not to rotate your torso.
Hold this position and deep breathe for five to six times. Repeat this set of exercise on your right shoulder.
Shoulder Retraction Exercise
This set of exercise will maintain the stability of your hip and spine by focusing on your shoulder muscles.
You will need an elastic band used typically in workout exercises. Start by standing and your left foot in front while holding the two ends of the elastic band.
Both palms should be facing downwards. Exhale and start pulling your arms to the sides.
This will squeeze your shoulder blades. Keep your legs and your body still as you are pulling the elastic band. Hold for two seconds.
Then return your arms slowly to their starting position. Do this exercise in three sets, each one with eight to twelve reps.
Deep Breathing Exercise
This is another exercise where you need to retract your shoulder blades by passively using deep breathing and gravity.
It will relax and alleviate the strain and pressure on your spine. Start by kneeling on both your hands and your knees.
Your hands should be under your shoulders and your knees should be under your hip joints. Inhale the air into your diaphragm and then exhale.
Each time you exhale tries letting your belly reach the ground. Your shoulder blades should also be pulling towards each other unconsciously.
There should be increased stretching of your lower back. Your head should drop back wherein your chin is close to your chest.
Repeat this breathing exercise from two to three sets which should take you about three minutes.
This exercise will strengthen your shoulder blades and back muscles and straighten up your posture.
Set a low horizontal bar from two to three feet from the ground. A Smith machine, or a rack or a squat bar will do.
With both hands, hold the bar and crawl under it. Your chest should be below the bar.
With your feet on the ground, tighten up your buttocks so it will not sag down. Exhale and start pulling up until your chest is close to the bar.
Inhale and start lowering your body until your arms are fully straight. Repeat this exercise in three sets with each set from eight to 12 reps.
How Rhomboid Pain Is Diagnosed
If you will see a doctor to seek treatment for your upper back pain, he will first ask you some probing questions.
The questions will be asked to determine the location of the pain, the degree of the pain and the possible physical reasons for the pain.
He will also ask questions as to what you are doing that makes the pain worse or better.
Your answers to his questions will give him a good idea of the location of the pain and its probable reasons and consequences.
He will also investigate your medical history to see if there is an underlying cause or if there’s none.
If you suffered an injury on your back, you should tell the doctor about it. It is also important to let him know if you are engaging in any kind of sports or if you are performing physical work that may have caused your rhomboids to act abnormally.
After the preliminary probing interview, you will be asked to undergo a physical exam.
The physician will inspect the affected area and will look for signs such as bruises on your upper back to see if your problem is really on your rhomboids.
You will be asked by the doctor to move your arms together with your shoulders. He will do this because according to Belmarra Health.com, almost all cases of rhomboid pain are caused by the overuse of the shoulders and arms.
This will allow him to see how your particular rhomboid pain is generated and the exact areas of your upper back that will show tenderness and tightness.
After the doctor is sure of the cause, he will prescribe certain medications to reduce the pain and swelling, as well as recommend the right exercise or physiotherapy that you should undergo.
What Are The Most Common Treatment Of Rhomboid Pain?
In general, the attending physician will advise you to take some time off to rest and relax and to refrain from doing any strenuous activities.
Even if you undergo treatment and persist on using your Scapula, your pain will not be relieved.
Following are the treatments for rhomboid pain.
Cold compress – this should help relieve the pain in your upper back muscles and will reduce the swelling as well.
A Cold compress is done by applying ice cubes or ice bags that are towel wrapped. You should apply this cold compress in less than 20 minutes at any one time.
Take medications – taking medications such aspirin and ibuprofen will alleviate your rhomboid pain.
This will also help thin the blood and thereby reduce the swelling of the affected muscles.
Physical therapy – physical rehab should be undertaken right after the swelling and muscle pains have subsided.
The physical therapist will help you perform appropriate exercises that will gently stretch and relax your upper back muscles.
This is done to help you regain your range of motions and the flexibility of the affected muscles.
The physiotherapist or occupational therapist might ask you to perform different forms of stretching exercises to see which of them is the best in alleviating your rhomboid pain.
Whatever exercise you might be asked to perform, it is very important not to overdo them.
Doctor’s intervention – if you have undergone all the required treatments and the pain still persists, you need to go back to your doctor and ask his advice on what you should do next.
How You Can Prevent Rhomboid Pain
Basically, rhomboid pain results when the upper back muscles are placed in overstretched and overstrained positions for long periods of time.
Such positions will increase the tension in the upper back muscles which will then lead to them experiencing strain and spasm.
One of the first things you need to be aware of in preventing rhomboid pain is your upper body posture.
You need to be in the right body posture all of the time where your shoulders are straight and not rounded nor elevated for long periods of time.
Stretching exercises will help you maintain good upper body posture. Combine stretching exercise with strengthening exercise and you will be able to avoid rhomboid pain. And always avoid putting too much stress and strain on your upper back muscles.
One type of exercise that is effective in preventing rhomboid pain is the standing chest stretching exercise.
You can perform this exercise against a stable and hard object such as a wall, a doorway, or a pole.
Start the exercise by standing with your forearm positioned vertically against the wall, or any stable object. Your elbows and shoulder should be bent at 90 degrees.
Then, put your feet in a stance position. Your back leg should be on the side of your body as you are stretching your chest muscle.
Then transfer your body weight in front very slowly until you feel the stretch in front of your chest and shoulders.
Sustain this stretch for about thirty seconds. Repeat the same movements with the opposite side of your body.
After this chest stretching exercise, you can follow it up with a strengthening exercise called Ball Cobra.
This particular exercise will reinforce or strengthen the correct upper body posture. You will need a stability ball in this exercise.
Start by lying prone on the floor with your face down and the stability ball beneath your mid-section.
Your legs should be straight and your feet should be pointed toward the floor. Your arms should be extended out in front of your body and your elbows straight.
Then, start drawing in your belly button and start squeezing your butt muscles. Pinch your shoulder blades downwards so that you can bring your arms to the side of your body.
Return your arms slowly in front of your body. Repeat this sequence for around 10 to 15 times.
There are many other exercises that can help in preventing rhomboid pain. But the important thing is maintaining the right upper body posture all the time.
No matter what exercises you perform, if you will not strictly get into the right posture, your rhomboid pain will come back.
This short YouTube video will show you another way to stretch your rhomboid muscles.
The exercise was performed by a physical therapist so you can be sure that it will do well to your upper back muscles.