My Rhomboids Really Hurt!

By Ashley Jones & Ross Ashcraft

Rhomboids create those ugly knots in my scapula. The Rhomboids are a major source of upper back pain. They will cause problems for a wide range of people:  hairdressers, servers, CPA’s, teachers, administrators, and students.  Located between the shoulder blade and spine, the rhomboids are not easily discernible except along the medial border of the scapula.

There are numerous ways treat these sometimes unbearable and mostly annoying knots.  They commonly develop from day to day routines like long hours at a computer, or sometimes just sleeping wrong.

Technique # 1: 

The first and most effective way is a stretch.  1) The client lies prone or face down. 2) The therapist stands to the side of the client. 3) Place their thumbs or base of their palm at the medial border of the scapula. 4) Push and lift the client’s scapula away from the spine.  5) While constantly checking in with clinet, hold from 30 seconds.

Technique # 2: 

1.) Have the client sit in a chair.  2) Palpate the area around the scapula searching for a knot. 3)  Place one hand on their shoulder 4)  Place your other hand with thumb pressure on the knot.  5) Hold until you feel change.  6) Then have your client rotate there arm while still applying pressure, forward and then back. 7) Finish with effleurage and petrissage while assessing the area for change.  Always check out the muscles near a tender area for others significant discomfort.


Your client will need homework that they can actually take home.  Give them a series of stretches.


1) Get in the middle of a door way and hold on to each side of the door frame and slowly lean out until you feel your arms fully extended hold for 30 seconds.

2) Reach your hand behind your head as shown and push your elbow down over your head while your fingers try to touch the middle of your back.

3) Send them home with a tennis ball.  Using the wall, apply as much pressure as you can withstand and slowly roll the tennis ball up and down the knot until you feel change.

4) Don’t forget to have the “importance of water” talk.

Please, try these three Homework examples and tell us what you think.  Or try these two techniques on friend and let us know what they thought.  We love feedback!



30 thoughts on “My Rhomboids Really Hurt!”

  1. I really love to have my rhomboids stretched and I love doing it to other people. That is my favorite way of dealing with these most troublesome of all muscles. The other techniques are good too.

  2. i have done these stretches and they work, the only thing I need to do is get myself to do them on a regular. I even told my mom to do these stretches, because she sits at a computer all day.

  3. These are great techniques. I like to do the trigger point on my clients, but when they have some really nasty knots, I have them put their hand on the small of their back to raise the scapula, and strip the muscle. I like the tennis balls because you can do them to yourself with as much or as little pressure as you need, plus you always have some time in your day to do that unlike trying to get someone to rub “our” shoulders.

  4. I tried technique #1 on my husband and he usually has trouble lifting his right arm all the way over his head. He has no problem doing it now. I also myself tried all three stretches and the tennis ball was a little to hard on my back but the one in the door way and the finger tips to the middle of you back they both really stretched me out.

  5. I really like these techniques. I do these stretches often to my self and recommend them to people who have knots on their rhomboids but my favorite is the trigger point. I use this quite often but i agree with Krystal I enjoy the tennis ball trigger point technique because you can do it on your self and it is so easy. Great Blog.

  6. The tennis ball technique was great. I worked hard today and the ball felt very good. It is good to have an exercise that works so well, and you don’t need help from anybody. My husband is very tall and this technique suits him perfectly. Thanks again for a great blog.

  7. All the techniques are great you have shown us! My new favorite is rolling on the Foam Roller and letting the body sink around the roller. and who doesnt love the tennis ball : ) i started to use a golf ball laying on it it was amazing.

  8. I really like the tennis ball idea, its something I wouldn’t of thought of using. I know a lady who has a lot of problems with her rhomboids, so I can’t wait to try this out on her.

  9. Rhomboids are not my friends most of the time. Every time I get a massage I hear, “OMG you have so many knots”. So yes this is one of my favorite areas to have massaged. I like the patient homework provided. I have not been instructed by a MT before on these simple steps. Enjoyed the blog.

  10. I love the technique you showed us in class to use on trigger points. It does seem like my class mates find alot of knots around my rhomboids and of course they love practicing working them out and I do too. ( They are very good at it to I might add)

  11. I have tried these techniques and it feels really good. But my favorite technique is taking one arm and stretching as far as it will go down the back and just stretch them rhomboids.

  12. I have done all these techniques. I have had a muscle spasm in my rhomboid major for 5+ yrs now. When I had to do physical therapy due to an injury caused by this these were the same exact techniques they gave me to do at home. I still use these techniques today to relieve pain, and help the muscle to relax so that I can use my shoulder and function in everyday life without pain.

  13. I love using a tennis ball or foam rolling on my rhomboids. Its great because my body weight does all the work. My problems aren’t usually in my rhomboids but when know they are in other peoples back I suggest they use a tennis ball

  14. I had Margina, she is amazing, work on my rhomboid and I had multiple knots there. We used Ross’s routine to help get them out and it really does work. I neglected the “Drink Plenty of Water” talk so I was sore the day after. But, she did a great job relieving the pain in my rhomboids.

  15. I always have irritating knots in this area & I’ve received just about all of those techniques. They really work !

  16. This is a really great blog. I just started at Clary Sage last week and almost EVERY client that comes in says that they have knots in the Rhomboid area and most do. I love using these techniques and love giving it as homework. The tennis ball hurts so good!

  17. I hate those knots that get so far under the scapula you can barely get to them but the arm movement really helps. I have learned that going at them from the side working laterally to medially can sometimes work better than from the head of the table. Push a different direction and sometimes they break up right away.

  18. I love having the area between my scapula and spine massaged and find that when I massage for another person they love the technique. I get to hear a lot of ooo’s and awe’s when I begin and find they don’t want me to stop! It is a really good and effective technique! Thank you Ross!

  19. my favorite muscle are the rhomboids, huge fan! I personally work on them the most because everyone has tightness there. I need to try rolling on golf balls instead of tennis balls for my knots 🙂

  20. Kristin found these between my scapula and my spine but to me it felt wonderful and kind of a tickle when they were worked on. I’ll have to try the doorway thing

  21. I am defiantly going to do these homeworks more often. I know we have done some of them before class on Mondays and they are really nice. And I felt good afterwards.

  22. I have tried the tennis ball one and it felt really good, it’s hard for me to the the arm behind the back because my arms are short so I need to work on that one more.

  23. Me personally, I have always liked the stretch of the arms behind your head while trying to reach the middle of your back. This stretch just feels really good and effective!

  24. This information is great to know for my work currently. We do so much phyical work and I here of back complaints. We do some stretching before work and some employees still have complaints. I will pass this knowledge on and maybe hear less complaints. Thank you for the great blog on rhomboids.