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. Keep reading to find out more.
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?
  8. Can Rhomboid Muscles Be Torn?
  9. What Are Other Tips to Follow When You Have Rhomboid Muscle Pain?
  10. Which Foods Do You Eat to Help Ease 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 spinal cord 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, 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, and 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.

What Are the Different Rhomboid Muscle Pain Relief Options?

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Using a cold compress to relieve rhomboid muscle pain

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 and strengthening 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 three to five 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 three to five reps on each side.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

  • Stand or sit straight with your arms on your side.
  • Bring your shoulder blades backward squeezing them together.
  • Stay in this position for about 5-10 seconds and revert to your original position.
  • Repeat the process for 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 three to five 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 three to five times.

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

How Long Does It Take Before It Heals?

The duration of the pain is heavily dependent on the severity of the rhomboid 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 with only one shoulder.
  7. When at work, allot time for quick stretch breaks to loosen up your muscles and release tension build-up.

Can Rhomboid Muscles Be Torn?

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Muscle pain caused by a torn rhomboid muscle

Yes, it can when strain is present and you experience these symptoms:

  • Inability to use the muscle
  • A weakness of the tendons or muscle
  • Pain when the joint or muscle is used
  • Pain during rest
  • Redness, bruising, and swelling

The tearing can affect muscle fibers and tendons. It can also cause damage to the blood vessels, which can lead to bleeding or bruising.
Upon examination, your doctor will try to determine if the muscle is partially or entirely torn. If it’s the latter, the healing process can take longer with possible surgery or a complicated recovery.

What Are Other Tips to Follow When You Have Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

For driving:

  • When driving, you can use a lumbar roll or other types of back support at the curve of your back.
  • Your knees should be on the same level as or higher than your hips.
  • You should also move the driving seat close to the steering wheel.

Doing all these not only helps support the curve of your back, but they also prevent further muscle damage and poor posture.
For kneeling, squatting, or stooping:
When kneeling, squatting, or stooping to reach or lift objects, decide first which position is more comfortable for you. If you need to go down really far, you can kneel, but you should stay in that position for a while to avoid shocking your muscles if you immediately stand up.
Whichever position you’ll use, make sure you lower yourself with your legs, tighten stomach muscles, keep feet apart, and face the object to prevent more damage to your muscles.
For coughing or sneezing:
When you cough or sneeze, stand up and bend slightly backward to allow more curve to your spine, protecting your upper back from shaking.
For lifting objects:
If you need to lift lighter objects, make sure they are not heavier than 30 pounds to avoid further pressure and stress on your muscles. Your footing should be firm as well before lifting.
When picking up objects lower than waist level, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Avoid bending forward using your waist while keeping your knees straight.

Which Foods Do You Eat to Help Ease Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

Adding these foods to your diet can significantly help relieve pain on your rhomboid muscle and even other types of muscles in the body:

1. Red Wine

The skin of red grapes, which red wine is extracted from, contains a compound called resveratrol that can help reduce swelling in the muscles. The compound is a polyphenol that acts like antioxidants that shield the body from free radical damage.
Although drinking red wine is beneficial for chronic rhomboid muscle pain, it’s still best to drink it with the right amount.

2. Peppermint Oil

It’s naturally anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory and has analgesic properties that help lower inflammation and pain levels. It can calm down muscle spasms that lead to cramps with menthol, a compound that gives a cooling sensation and alleviates discomfort.
You can use peppermint oil as a substitute if your recipes require peppermint extract. Just remember that the oil is concentrated so you need to use only a small amount.

3. Chili Peppers

These contain capsaicin, a neuropeptide-releasing agent that provides chilies their heat, which has painkilling properties. Eat them raw or include them in your recipes.
The sensation of “burning” you feel when you consume these tricks your brain to release endorphins that block pain signals. Stews, soups, and sauces are some of the wonderful recipes you can incorporate chili peppers into.

Endorphins Definition: Chemicals the body releases to relieve pain and stress

4. Virgin Olive Oil

The oil contains oleocanthal, a phenolic compound responsible for the burning sensation you may feel at the back of your throat when you consume it. It functions like ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that works by lowering hormone levels that trigger pain and inflammation.
Just make sure to not heat the oil to high temperatures, around 410°F, as that removes some of the beneficial properties. You can use it to cook anti-inflammatory foods like certain veggies to help with rhomboid muscle pain.

5. Tart Cherries

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Eating tart cherries for natural pain relief

These contain flavonoids called anthocyanins that possess anti-mutagenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antimicrobial properties to help fight muscle swelling and pain. A study showed that runners who consumed tart cherry juice for one week before the race and the day of the race twice a day experienced a decrease in muscle pain.
You can also include these cherries into your snack recipes, aside from consuming them as juice.

6. Turmeric

This famous spice has antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in relaxing muscles from stiffness or soreness.
The body finds it hard to absorb turmeric, so you need to heat it for easier absorption. You can include this ingredient in your soup or curry recipes.

7. Salmon

This fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in reducing discomfort, stiffness, and swelling in the muscles. The acids also contribute to an increase in blood flow to avoid swelling when your rhomboid muscle is working.
You can cook salmon in several ways:

  • Frying
  • Roasting
  • Broiling
  • Grilling
  • Poaching

You can also try other types of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like mackerel, sardines, and tuna.

8. Blueberries

These healthy berries contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that protect muscle cells and reduce muscle swelling. You can have them as fresh toppings on cereals, yogurt, pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal, as a smoothie with yogurt and milk, or as a salad ingredient.
For non-berry seasons, you can opt for frozen blueberries as they still contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh ones.

9. Ginger

Ginger can kill nagging pain. A study revealed that participants who took ginger for 11 days reported that they experienced less muscle pain.
You can include ginger in your sweets, stir-fries, fish recipes, soup, or hot tea.
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.
What other questions about rhomboid muscle pain can you share with us? Shoot them in the comments section below!
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Rhomboid Muscle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment https://blog.drseeds.com/rhomboid-muscle-pain/
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 24, 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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