Rhomboid Muscles: Trigger Point Pain
The rhomboids are two separate muscles, the rhomboid major and the rhomboid minor. The muscles are located in the upper back and connect the shoulder blades to the neck and upper back vertebrae. Rhomboid trigger points (TrPs) pain is felt around the inner edge of the shoulder blade.
Where Are The Rhomboid Muscles?
- The rhomboid major connects the upper back vertebrae (T2-T5) to the shoulder blade (scapula).
- The rhomboid minor attaches to the bottom neck vertebra (C7) and the first upper back vertebra (T1) to the shoulder blade (scapula).
What Movements Does It Control?
- Pulls the shoulder blade toward the spine
- Stabilizes the shoulder blade
- Raises the shoulder blade
- Pulls the arm down from over head position
Looking for detailed muscle anatomy? The Rhomboid Major and Rhomboid Minor Anatomy Page has origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information. It also lists agonists and antagonists for each muscle action.
Rhomboid Muscles Trigger Points Symptoms:
TrPs in the rhomboids cause aching pain around the inner edge of the shoulder blade. You may notice the ache more when you are resting.
If the rhomboids are weak, they contribute to slumping in the upper body. Your shoulders will round forward, and you may feel stiffness and some pain when you try to pull the shoulders back and straighten your back.
- Pain around the inside of the shoulder blade especially noticeable at rest.
- Popping and grinding noise when moving the shoulder blade
- Difficulty or inability to straighten the upper body out of a slumped position
Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)
Biofreeze Professional Gel is recommended for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain. Recommended by medical professionals and trainers.
What Causes Trigger Points To Develop?
The primary cause of trigger points in the rhomboid muscles is the muscles in the chest, namely the pectoral muscles. When the pectoral muscles become short and tight, they pull the shoulders forward, causing rounded shoulder posture. The rhomboids are then in a sustained stretch, which causes tightness, pain, and the development of trigger points. The first step is to eliminate TrPs in the pecs before working on the rhomboids. You will also need to add stretching exercises for the pecs, as well as strength exercises for the rhomboids.
Stress and other activities that have you holding your shoulders up or holding the arms overhead are very stressful for the rhomboids. Motions that require sudden, hard, and repetitive downward motion of the arm will contribute to the development of trigger points.
Activites that contribute to trigger point development:
- Painting a ceiling
- Hanging wallpaper
- Throwing a ball
- Extended work at the computer
- Military posture: standing with extremely straight posture with shoulders pulled back, chest thrust forward.
If you have rounded shoulder, forward head posture, or have a habit of slouching, correcting your posture will reduce your muscle pain. The Truweo Posture Corrector is adjustable and comfortable. It gently pulls your shoulders back which helps retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. Many people notice an immediate reduction of pain and tension. Start slowly, wearing the brace for short periods throughout the day slowly increasing the time worn.
How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Rhomboid Muscles
- The first thing to do is to check the pec muscles and the subclavius muscles for TrPs. Eliminate those then work on the rhomboids.
- If you have rounded shoulder or forward head posture, work on your posture. Slumping overstretches the rhomboids and will contribute to soreness and pain as well as the development of trigger points.
- If painting overhead, use a ladder or other tools, so you don’t have to constantly reach overhead with your arms.
- Exercise and Sports- be sure to do a good warm-up and cool-down. ‘When your muscles start feeling tired and weak, take a break or stop.
- If you work at a desk, sit closer to the desktop to ensure that you are not over-reaching to type or work. Have a chair with armrests that properly support your elbows and forearms.
- Don’t over correct your posture by forcibly holding your shoulders back and keeping your back perfectly straight. Be correct and relaxed, not stiff, and stressed.
Cureve Hot Cold Pack can be used for warm and cold treatments. It is recommended that you use cold packs for injuries, swelling, and after a TrP treatment. Use a warm treatment when the muscle is tight and needs to relax.
Rhomboid Muscles Trigger Point Treatment
If you are interested in self-treatment, but are unsure how to apply the treatment, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent book with diagrams that will teach you the location of trigger points and how to use the treatment methods. A recommended resource to learn about TrPs and treatment.
The rhomboid muscles are easy to self-treat using massage balls. You use the ball by leaning against a wall applying pressure to the muscles. You roll the ball to massage the area.
If you have balance or mobility issues the Thera Cane Massager is recommended. The cane can be used sitting or standing to treat the muscles.
How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?
Trigger points in the rhomboids deactivate quickly, and you will usually experience relief after a few treatments. If you are not feeling any change or the pain quickly returns, check the pectoral muscles, the subclavius, and scalene muscles in the neck. Deactivate trigger points in those muscles, then come back to the rhomboids.
Another requirement for successful treatment is to keep up treatment until the trigger points are deactivated (gone), and are no longer felt. Deactivated TrPs do not produce any pain or symptoms when pressure is applied to the area. It is tempting to stop treating when you feel better, but if the trigger point(s) are still there, the pain and symptoms will return.
The rhomboids are often called the Christmas tree muscles. Their connections on the lower neck and upper back extending to the shoulder blade give them a distinct triangular shape that looks like a Christmas tree on muscle diagrams.
Rhomboid muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:
- Scapulocostal syndrome
- Degenerative disc disease
- C4, C5, C6, C7, C8, T1, T2 radiculopathy
Other muscles that should be considered and examined:
Satellite trigger points associated with the rhomboid muscles:
If you have developed TrPs in the rhomboids, there is a chance that you will find satellite trigger points in these muscles. To ensure complete treatment check and treat the following muscles:
- Levator scapulae
- Pectoralis major
- Latissimus dorsi
Doctors and physical therapists often recommend TENS to relax muscles and ease pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended and a great choice for treating shoulder, upper back, and arm pain.