In our modern society, we are all overusing our hands and all the muscles and joints attached to them. That includes the forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, upper back, and neck, and possibly even the jaw. Kids these days call that a kinetic chain. It is how our muscles are attached and work together. You never have one muscle moving separately from everything else.
All of the muscles in our bodies work together. Physical therapists call it regional interdependence. It’s how one area of our body affects another location and another area. I like the saying that you never have a chance to do a bench press in the real world. We are never just using our pec muscles. We use them with other muscles to move our shoulders and arms. This is a long-winded way of saying that pain between your shoulder blades probably does not come from the rhomboids.
Cell phones are ubiquitous. Everyone has one, and everyone uses them. Whether you are in front of the computer or steering wheel or looking down at your phone, we are all hunching over and looking down way too much. We are doing it so much that it is reshaping our skeletons. Before the pandemic, there was a study that caused people to get upset. The study showed that kids were growing horns on the back of their heads from looking down at their screens so much.
Kids were growing bone spurs on the back of their heads, at the base of the skull, from the pressure of leaning their heads over and looking down for hours on end. We are all hunching over and looking down way too much. This causes our shoulder blades to come up to our ears and tightens the entire kinetic chain from our neck into our hands. Where you get pain along that chain is anyone’s guess.
Areas of previous injury are much more likely to flare again. If you injured your arm or shoulder, looking down on your lap or doing too much computer work can bring back that old injury. If you have pain between your shoulder blades, the rhomboid will be involved, but other muscles will also contribute to it. The subscapularis is the primary muscle that causes pain between the shoulder blades. The subscapularis is a rotator cuff muscle inside the shoulder blade, between the shoulder blade and ribs underneath it. The primary motion of the subscapularis is shoulder retraction. The muscle pulls your shoulder blades back and down. When you are hunching, your shoulder blades come up to your ears and will pinch and pull on most muscles in the shoulder, upper back, and arm. The subscapularis can pull on the ribs between the shoulder blades and cause pinching pain or prevent rib movement, which can cause pain when breathing in.
How do you prevent this pinching and pulling of the shoulder blades?
-Watch how you sit:
Sit with a small, rounded pillow in the small of your back, and lean backward. You can roll up a towel into a cylinder form and put some tape or rubber bands around it to hold it in place, then set it in the small of your back whenever you are sitting. Lean back so that your upper back is touching the chair. This will keep you in an excellent neutral position by maintaining the curvature of the spine. You should be able to sit comfortably like this for a while. But I wouldn’t sit for longer than an hour without getting up.
A good stretch for this area is to start standing up. You take your painful arm (right side for explanation) and put it behind your back, palm out. Try to touch the bottom of your left shoulder blade with your right fingers, palm still pointing backward. Once you get it as high up your back as you can comfortably (no pushing or jerking), lean back against a wall. It is one of the best stretches for our upper back and shoulders that I have seen. If you try this stretch and try to change how you sit, and you are still having pain between your shoulder blades, then I would seek out a chiropractor who specializes in soft tissue/ muscle injuries. The Nimmo/ receptor Tonus Technique is a significant soft tissue technique for reducing and healing muscle injuries. Deep Tissue Therapy lasers also treat shoulder and rotator cuff muscle injuries well. If you have shoulder pain, come in for a treatment, I can help.
Have a Pain Free Day.