How to Relieve Pain Between the Shoulder Blades – Lat and Rhomboid Release

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Most people I know experience this at least once in their life (if not repeatedly): pain between the shoulder blades. It can feel like a ball is stuck there, or it can feel like a sharp knife, or maybe it only hurts through certain ranges of motion or when you’re sleeping. Whatever the case may be, it’s NO FUN right? But it IS reversible!

Keep in mind, what I’m about to give you isn’t a full solution, but it should still provide some good relief (and some of you may get full relief).

Quick question: How’s your posture?!

Are your shoulders forward rotated? Are you hunched over at a desk all day or are you constantly bent over looking at your phone? Tsk tsk! (Hey I’m guilty of the phone thing too, but do my best to avoid it because it wreaks HAVOC on the cervical spine!)

The good news is, all of these things are avoidable through posture correction, by moving your computer to eye level (or better yet get a standing desk!) and holding your phone at eye level (hey, you might look like an old lady/man but you’ll avoid putting a 60 POUND pressure on your cervical spine!)

The more you can do to AVOID these bad posture habits, the better off you’ll be long-term.

Ok, moving on to what you can do right now to get some relief.

I’m going to give you my best ONE-TWO punch for getting relief.

Chances are, if you have pain between the shoulder blades, the fasica in you lats (lattisimus dorsi) is too tight. Releasing this fascia can often bring INSTANT relief. This is my #1 pick if you were to do just ONE thing. It’s also where I want you to START. (Don’t go to technique #2 until you’ve done this one!) The video is above.

First of all I want to emphasize that with ALL of my self-help techniques, you are attempting to release fascia. In order to do this, there must be a significant compression of the tissue along with movement of that tissue through different planes of motion. Unlike traditional foam rolling, the goal is NOT to roll up and down while your limbs remain passive. The goal is not to “massage” the muscle. The goal is to pin and stretch the fascial system throughout an entire limb (or the whole body, depending on the technique).

TIPS for getting the MOST out of this lat stretch:

  • Try the side that your pain is on first. If that doesn’t get you much relief, try the opposite. Do both anyway, but notice which one gets you the most relief, because that’s a clue as to how to stop the pain from coming back, if you can figure out why that side is worse than the other. (Do you carry a purse on that side? Hold kids on that hip? Always sleep on that side? etc)
  • Use as much of your body-weight as you can handle, but if your lat area us really sensitive, back off until you can breathe through it. I don’t want you tensing the rest of your body up just to get through this one. You can always add more weight when it becomes more bearable!
  • Remember, you are STRETCHING your fascia. With that in mind, spreading your fingers really wide will help you get the most out of this technique. So will reaching through your arm with every movement. Both of these combined make for the best possible result, in addition to the following:
  • Notice in the video how I am reaching my arm in the opposite direction that I’m moving the foam roller. If you can get control of your movements and do this, you’ll be “shearing” your fascia by slowly moving it in opposite directions, and you’ll get a really good release.
  • I mention this in the video but it bears repeating: try rolling up and down as well as ROCKING back and forth until you find the BEST spot. If you don’t find the best spot (well, the suckiest haha!), you won’t get the best result.
  • Stay with this for 3-5 minutes on each side. If it takes you longer to get the hang of it, go longer. When you do this right, you don’t need a ton of time. But there will likely be a learning curve in the beginning.

You’re done with the lat stretch? Great! Get up, move around and see how you feel.

Take note of how much of the pain is gone compared to when you started. For example, maybe it was a 5 our of 10, and after doing this it goes down to 3. That’s good information for you! It means your lats are really part of the problem. If you’re still at a 5, maybe you didn’t find the best spot; or maybe your lats are not the #1 cause of your pain. Either way, it’s good info.

Let’s move on! You’ll like #2.

Now that you’ve addressed the main cause of the pain, let’s help your rhomboids chill out!

With the above stretch, we are targeting the fascia in your rhomboids.

Typically, the rhomboids “complain” (send a signal to you asking for help, which comes in the form of pain), because they are actually getting overstretched. I know that sounds a little crazy, because they feel tight as heck and have all those “knots” in them. But those “knots”  are your body’s way of trying to get your muscles back where they are supposed to be! They’re fighting a losing battle, and eventually they get sick of it and demand your attention.

 

To get the MOST out of this technique:

  • Use a lacrosse ball. Golf balls are too small and too slippery. Tennis balls have too much “give.” Baseballs are too big and too slippery. The lacross ball has a bit of grip to it, so it sticks to your shirt better. It’s also the perfect size. (I have no affiliation with that Amazon seller and do not make money when you click the link).
  • After you find the BEST spot (there may even be some “lumps” or knots back there and you can put the ball directly on those), try NOT to let the ball roll around back there. Try to keep it PINNED in place. I use this technique every time I go to the gym before a workout, and I’ve had the experience (when I’m tighter than usual), of getting some really good “crunchy” releases if I can keep the ball pinned in place, reach through that opposite hand and move the arm of the side I’m targeting in just the right way. It feels so good after!
  • Go after the worst/most tender spot first, but definitely hunt around for one or two more spots.

Try this out and please comment or contact me with questions or to share how it works for you! And if you find this helpful, please share the love and share this post.

 

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4 comments

  • Nando October 13, 2015   Reply →

    Elisha, your blog posts keep improving in quality of graphics and video. Great work on that! Ad of course the instructions for how to make myself hurt in such a goooood way are great too.
    best to you,
    Nando

    • Elisha Celeste October 13, 2015   Reply →

      Thank you Nando!!! 🙂

  • Robin October 21, 2016   Reply →

    I have found your blog so very useful. Thank you.
    What would be the best foam roller diameter? I am an adult but I am quite tiny and thin (4’1”) Should I look for a smaller foam roller?

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