Rhomboid Muscle Pain: 10 Causes, & Recommended Relief Tips

Rhomboid muscle pain is common among athletes and people who sit in a position for a long period of time. Engaging in sporting activities like tennis, golf, swinging, volleyball, or even bending for a long time while working can lead to this pain. The pain is felt around the rhomboid muscles and can be intense especially if treatment is not given. Understanding the rhomboid muscles and how they work can help with knowing the causes of the pain. 


The rhomboid muscles are a large group of muscles that are found in the upper back. They are also found in the space between the shoulder blades on each side of the back. There are two types of rhomboid muscles – the major and the minor. They are connected to other muscles and help to hold the shoulder blades and stable. 

The rhomboid muscles perform many functions like:

  • Lifting the shoulder blades
  • Rotating the blades
  • Helping you to throw
  • Pulling back the shoulder blades during activities
  • Helping the arms to move overhead
  • Helping the torso to rotate
  • Helping you to pull. 

When these activities are done repeatedly or the muscles are placed in a bad position while sitting or standing, it causes pain. Rhomboid muscle pain is felt between the shoulder blades and the spine. The pain can be felt as a mild pain, strain, as spasm or even as a shooting pain. The degree of pain depends on the intensity of the cause. 

Rhomboid muscle pain
Rhomboid muscle pain


There are many things that can causes rhomboid muscle pain, some of these things are: 

  1. Injury in or around this muscle
  2. Rowing motions that involves rotating, flexing and contracting the upper arms, shoulders and elbows. 
  3. Bad posture like slouching or bending your back while working with your computer.
  4. Sitting in a posture for a long period of time
  5. Always sleeping on your side
  6. Pulling movements
  7. Repetitive movements and motions
  8. Pushups
  9. Throwing motions
  10. Overworking the shoulders and back with heavy weights.


These health conditions can also cause you to feel pain in your rhomboid muscles, the pain is usually a symptom of the health condition. 

1. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a bone disease that can cause pain and stiffness in the muscles. The shoulders may become stiff and the muscles around it will feel pain as well.

2. Myositis

Myositis is a health condition that makes the muscles to become inflamed and weak. It can affect any bone but usually start from the hips and shoulders.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis

When you have this disease, your immune system attacks your joint and causes lots of pain and swelling. It can also affect the muscles around the joint and if it is not treated on time, rheumatoid arthritis can deform the affected joints.

4. Polymyalgia Rheumatica

This disease causes pain and stiffness in the shoulders and hips. It can affect both sides and gets worse in the morning. 


There are other symptoms that will indicate rhomboid muscle pain. Symptoms of rhomboid muscle pain are:

  1. Shooting pain
  2. Stiffness around the shoulder blades
  3. Tingling feeling in the shoulder blades
  4. Numbness
  5. Aching or pinching pain
  6. Feeling of pain and needles in the muscles
  7. Painful breathing 
  8. Tenderness around the upper back
  9. Clicking noise when you move the shoulders
  10. Difficulty when moving the joints.


Rhomboid muscle pain can be mild or intense depending on the cause. If the pain is mild, it can be treated using home remedies and can heal in few weeks. In cases of serious or severe pain, a physical therapy can be recommended to help relieve the pain.  Some home remedies for treating rhomboid muscle pain are:

  • Using icepacks or cold packs on the shoulders. The packs should be used for few minutes, removed from the shoulder for sometime before replacing them. This is to avoid numbing the shoulders.
  • Using warm compressors if the shoulders are not swollen. 
  • Resting the arms and refraining from activities that will move the shoulders should be avoided till you are properly healed.
  • Supporting the shoulders and chest with pillows to keep them elevated while sleeping or lying down.
  • Over-the-counter medicines that can help with the discomfort and pain. Some of these medicines are ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
  • Topical pain relief creams, gels and sprays. Some topical pain relievers are diclofenac and salicylates can be used.
  • Essential oils like peppermint oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil, ginger oil, clove oil are examples of essential oils that can help with the pain and swelling. 
  • Massaging the shoulders.


Some exercises or stretches can be done to relieve the pain or even stop the pain from recurring. Do these exercises if you are able to, you may need some period of recovery to be able to do them. 

1. Shoulder Blade Squeeze 

You can do this sitting exercise while sitting or standing. Place your hands alongside your body. Draw your shoulders blades back and squeeze them together. Stay in this position for few seconds, relax your shoulders and repeat. Do this exercise for a minute.

2. Rhomboid Stretch

Place your right hand over your left hand and extend your arms in front of you and lean forward slot to feel a stretch between your shoulder blades. Stay in this position for 30 seconds, relieve your hands and repeat same exercise on the other hand. Do this stretch twice on both sides. 

3. Side arm Stretch

Cross your left arm in front of your body at shoulder height. Face your right palm upwards and bend your right arm while your left arm rests in your elbow crease, you can also use your right arm to hold your left hand. Stay in this position for 30 seconds before you do same with the other hand. Do this stretch like 90 90 stretch on both hands for 3 or 5 times.

4. Upper Back and Neck Stretch

Cross or interlace your fingers and bring your arms in front of you while your palms are facing forward. Bend your neck gently and draw your chin into your chest. Stay in this position for 30 seconds, take a deep breath and lift your head. Exhale the air, bend your neck and bring in your chin into your chest. Release yourself and relax for a minute before you continue with the pose.

5. Neck Rotations

You can either sit or stand but keep your head in a line. Take a deep breath and when exhaling, turn your head to the right side slowly. Then your head slowly as far as you can possibly go. Stay in this position for 30 seconds, take a deep breath and go back to the starting position. Do this same process on the other side. You should do this on both sides for at least 3 times.

6. Cow Face Pose

This should be done in a sitting position, raise your left arm up in a straight position. Now, bend your left elbow and bring it behind your back. Pull your left elbow to the right using your right hand, be gentle while doing this. Bend your right elbow while your right fingertips are clasped to your left fingertips, you can use a towel to achieve this pose. Stay in this position for 30 seconds before changing the position.

7. Locust Pose

Lie down on your stomach and place your hands by your sides, the palms should face upwards. Your forehead should be on the floor. Lift your head, arms and chest slowly, they should go up as high as possible, you should also lift your legs. Press in your stomach, lower ribs and pelvis into the floor as well. Stay in this position for 30 seconds before you rest for few minutes.

You can repeat this pose twice. Combining these exercises and home remedies can make you feel better, you can recover in few weeks if the pain is mild but if severe, it can take months. If you do not notice any improvements, you should see a physiotherapist. 


Preventing the pain from happening is better than treating them. There are some tips that can help you prevent rhomboid muscle pain.

  • Avoid carrying heavy loads for a long time and if you must do, carry them on both shoulders.
  • Exercises and stretches should be regular.
  • Warm up before any workout or exercise.
  • Rest for some time if you feel sore or tired while exercising.
  • Use proper technique during sports.


Rhomboid muscle pain occurs when the muscles around the shoulder blades and spine are overworked. The pain can be mild or severe depending on the cause. There are many home remedies including exercises that can be done to relieve the pain and discomfort, these remedies can also prevent the pain from recurring. If the pain is severe, you can see a physiotherapist for some physical therapies. 

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