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Rhomboid Strain or Spasm

(En español, presione aquí)

 What is a rhomboid strain or spasm?
 What is the cause?
 What are the symptoms?
 How is it diagnosed?
 How is it treated?
 How can I help take care of myself?
 How can I help prevent rhomboid muscle strain or spasm?

Back and Neck Muscles: Illustration
Back and Neck Muscles: IllustrationClick here to view a full size picture.

What is a rhomboid strain or spasm?

The rhomboid muscles in your upper back connect the inner edges of your shoulder blades to your spine. A rhomboid strain is a stretch or tear of these muscles. A rhomboid spasm is a sudden tightening of the muscle that you cannot control.

What is the cause?

A rhomboid muscle strain or spasm is usually caused by overuse of your shoulder and arm. This can happen from:

What are the symptoms?

A strain causes pain in the upper back between your shoulder blade and your spine. A spasm feels like a knot or tightness in the muscle. You may have pain when you move your shoulders or when you breathe.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you.

How is it treated?

You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until your muscles have healed. For example, you may need to run or ride a bicycle instead of playing tennis or rowing.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises and other types of physical therapy to help you heal.

A mild rhomboid strain may heal within a few weeks, but a severe injury may take 6 weeks or longer.

How can I help take care of myself?

To help relieve swelling and pain:

Put moist heat on your back for up to 20 minutes at a time to help relax tight muscles or muscle spasms. Moist heat includes heat patches or moist heating pads that you can purchase at most drugstores, a wet washcloth or towel that has been heated in the dryer, or a hot shower. Don’t use heat if you have swelling.

Do the exercises recommended by your healthcare provider. Massage is also very helpful. Here’s a way to do a form of self-massage:

You can also buy a foam roller or a self-massage tool.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent rhomboid muscle strain or spasm?

Here are some of the things you can do to help prevent rhomboid muscle strain or spasm:

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Reference Sources:

DeLee, Jesse C., David Drez, and Mark D. Miller, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, Saunders; 3rd ed. 2009.

Greene, Walter B., M.D., Griffin, Letha Y. (Ed), Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed. Amer Academy of Orthopaedic. 2010.

Kisner, Carol, and Lynn Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, F. A. Davis Company; 6th ed, 2012.

Mellion, Morris B., W. Michael Walsh, Christopher Madden, Margot Putukian, and Guy L. Shelton, The Team Physician's Handbook, Hanley & Belfus; 3 ed, 2001.

Micheli, Lyle J. and Mark Jenkins, The Sports Medicine Bible: Prevent, Detect, and Treat Your Sports Injuries Through the Latest Medical Techniques, HarperCollins, 1995.


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Last Modified: 2012-12-19

Last Reviewed: 2012-08-04

Website Updated: March 2014

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Published by RelayHealth. © 2014 RelayHealth and/or one of its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


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