Rhomboid muscle pain – symptoms, causes, & 4 stretches,

rhomboid muscle pain

You’ll feel Rhomboid muscle pain between the shoulder blade and spine directly below your neck this pain is also referred to as shoulder blade pain or to make it easier to understand upper back pain. It may feel like a sprain, sudden pain, or a spasm. The rhomboid muscle connects your shoulder blade to the ribs and the spine.

Rhomboid muscle

The rhomboid muscle is a large group of muscles that is situated in our upper back. The rhomboid muscles are made up of two muscles these are known as “rhomboid major” & “rhomboid minor“.

These two rhomboid lies deep to the trapezius to form parallel bands that pass inferolateral from the vertebrae to the medial border of the scapula (1). The rhomboid major is thin and flat but it is twice the wider and the rhomboid minor thicker when compared to the rhomboid major and it lies superior to it. Usually, there is some space between these two rhomboids but in some cases, you may find a single blended muscle.

rhomboid muscle

The origin and the insertion of both the rhomboid muscle is different.

The rhomboid major originates from spinous Processes of thoracic vertebrae T2-T5 and insertion happens around the scapula medial border from spine level to scapula’s inferior angle. Rhomboid major muscle is also shaped in a diamond form. The rhomboid minor originates from the inferior border of nuchal ligaments, spinous Processes C7 & T1 and it inserts into the small area of the scapula medial border at the level of the scapular spine (2).

The rhomboid muscle is responsible for the movement of your arm and shoulder and also rhomboid muscles help you by retracting your shoulder blades toward the back that in turn improves your body posture. Rhomboid muscles also provide stability of shoulder and scapula during any upper limb body movement. Basic upper body movements like throwing, pulling, lifting your arm are all done with the help of rhomboid muscle.

Symptoms of rhomboid muscle pain

Unlike a cramp that can happen suddenly, rhomboid muscle pain will happen slowly over a time period as your rhomboid muscle starts to contract. If you ignore the rhomboid muscle pain and leave it untreated it will never get a chance to heal and your pain will start to get worse over time. It is difficult to identify rhomboid muscle pain because its difficult to identify when the pain starts due to its slow outbreak.

If you have rhomboid muscle pain these are the signs to look out for…

  • Tightness/stiffness in upperback.
  • Pain or grinding noise whenever your shoulder blades moves.
  • Pain while breathing.
  • Difficulty or feeling pain to move your arm.

Sometimes rhomboid muscle pain can also cause pain in the mid-upper back, or around the shoulder blade region, or between the spine and shoulder blade.

Cause of rhomboid muscle pain

Pain in the rhomboid muscle or your upper back can be caused by various things like a strain, injury, or muscle being overused. Some sport that over-exhaust your rhomboid muscle are tennis, golf, and rowing, and this over-exhaustion can lead you to experience pain in the rhomboid muscle. Some other day-to-day activities that can also cause rhomboid muscle pain is lifting heavy objects, extending your arms over the head for a long time. Continuous motions like rowing, pulling or throwing can also cause rhomboid muscle pain. Sitting in bad or incorrect posture can develop rhomboid pain.

Treatment of rhomboid muscle pain

Avoid any activity that can elevate your rhomboid muscle pain like avoiding continuous movement, bad posture, etc. If you have mild rhomboid pain it can heal within a few weeks but if the injury is serious it can take a lot more than a few weeks to heal.

Pain relievers

You can take pain relief medicine that will help you with inflammation and discomfort or you can use pain relievers in a form of cream, gel, and spray and apply to the affected area, this way to take pain relief is said to have lower side effects because less drug is absorbed in our blood and it bypasses our digestive tract.


Gently heating the affected area with the help of a heating pad can help your muscles relax, increase range of motion, and flexibility. It will also increase the blood flow in the affected area thus increasing the supply of injury healing nutrients to the muscle that can fasten your recovery. There are various ways to apply heat to the affected area such as taking a hot shower, applying a heat pack directly, or using heat creme such as balm. The best way is to apply heat packs for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day.

Applying an ice pack to the affected area can help you decrease inflammation and it will numb the pain. Icing the muscle will tighten the blood vessels thus decreasing the circulation of the blood. If your injury is older than 6 weeks heat is the best way and if it’s not ice takes the win at reducing swelling, pain, and inflammation whereas heat can make it worse (3).


Regularly doing these rhomboid muscle stretches will have great benefits on your health it will help you lengthen your muscle that will help your muscles to prevent contraction. It also aids in improving blood flow to the affected area, also heals, and helps your muscles relax.

Note – You should be able to do these stretches without feeling any pain, if you do feel the pain you should stop and get in touch with your doctor also take a good rest before getting starting with these stretches. Just doing these stretches one time won’t reap you any benefits, it has to be done consistently.

  1. Pectoralis stretch

This is one of the easiest stretches, it can be done anywhere you just need an open doorway or a corner.

  • Start by standing in the corner or an open doorway.
  • Rest your arm on the wall or the door frame, your hand should be placed slightly above the head.
  • Take a deep breath and start to lean forward till you don’t feel a stretch in front of your shoulder.
  • Now hold that stretched position for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • return to the starting position and repeat this for both arms at least 4 to 6 times.

2. Rhomboid stretch

  • Bring your left arm across in the front of your body, it should be close to the shoulder level.
  • Now with your right arm grab the elbow of the left arm.
  • Now gently start to pull your left arm across the chest until you feel your shoulder and upper back muscles bring stretched.
  • Now hold that position for 8 to 10 seconds.
  • Now return to the starting position and repeat the process for another arm, do this at least 6 to 8 times for each arm.

3. Rhomboid stretch with wrist

  • Extend your both arms straight, now interlock them with the help of fingers.
  • Your palm should be facing outwards.
  • Try extending your arms as much as you can while staying in the interlocked position.
  • As you reach your limit hold that position for at least 10 to 15 seconds, and do 6 to 8 reps.

4. Rhomboid stretch while sitting

  • Sit on any elevated surface like chair, bench. Make sure you sit on the edge of the seat.
  • Your feets should be flat on the floor and knees should be making an right angle.
  • Place your feets shoulder-width, now bend and try to reach your left ankle with your right hand.
  • Try to press your right elbow with left hand until you feel a stretch in your upper back.
  • Now hold that position for at least 15 to 20 seconds and repeat 4 to 5times for each side.

Prevent rhomboid muscle pain in future

Now that you do know stretches and treatment for rhomboid muscle pain that doesn’t mean that you got a golden ticket, it can happen again, and to avoid that pain there are some precautions that you should take such as…

  • Have a proper warmup before you exercise by dynamic stretching and afterward static stretching to cool down.
  • Take a break from the activities whenever you feel tired or sore.
  • Exercise daily and keep your health in check.
  • Make good body posture your habit.
  • Use proper equipment and protection in sports or at work.

When to see a doctor

Just because you’re feeling pain between your shoulder blade and spine it doesn’t have to be rhomboid muscle pain always. Other than rhomboid muscle there are various anatomical structures in the area that can be causing this pain like ribs, thoracic spine, cervical spine, thoracic and cervical nerves, scapula nerves, and much more.

If the pain in your upper back doesn’t seem to get better with treatment and stretching, it is best to get in touch with your doctor. Some symptoms like you can’t move your arm, your arm or shoulder is swollen, the pain has suddenly started to get worse. These are the sign that you should immediately get in touch with your doctor sometimes these symptoms can be something more alarming than just rhomboid muscle pain.

Final words

As soon as you start to experience rhomboid muscle pain your first go-to treatment should be deep breaths, resting, and taking care of yourself. Avoid activities like sports or anything that might be the cause of your rhomboid pain. If the pain starts to get worse you shouldn’t rely on these stretches and you should get in touch with your doctor. Try to avoid mental stress too it won’t help you with rhomboid pain but it will somewhat improve your mood.