T Nation

Pulled Rhomboid


So I pulled my rhomboid about a month ago doing T-Bar rows. I basically bent down to pick up the bar, and being an idiot I didn't lift with my legs and felt my left rhomboid pull. I took about a week off, did some serious stretching and foam rolling. It felt better so I started lifting again. It felt okay when I was lifting, but ached a little bit after I finished my workout. I've basically been training like this for the past 3 weeks, just dealing with the pain. It's not severe pain by any means, but my question is- if I'm lifting on a strained muscle, is that going to hinder my muscle growth? I have no problems with the muscle when I lift, but after my workout it aches a bit. I can totally deal with this as it doesn't really bother me too much, but am is it preventing my back muscles from growing? If so, I will take time off. Any help would be much appreciated!

Edit: I've been heating it at least once a day and stretching it daily. I've taken a week off from all lifting, and it feels slightly better. How will I know when I can start training again? Last time it felt pain-free I tried lifting and the pain returned. I want to be rid of this nagging injury for good!


Yes, the ability to recruit a muscle will have an impact on its development. I would either foam roll to keep the fascia nice and happy while you heal, or get some soft tissue work done on it. Stay away from the heavy stuff for a little bit and incorporate some isolated rhomboid exercises (or movements that target it heavily).

I've strained a rhomboid before and mine wasn't too bad, just don't jump the gun too early. It's better to take it easy for a week and heal than to push through and never fully recover and develop scar tissue, poor recruitment, etc.


Also try a few days of NSAID's (anti-inflammatories such as aleve, ibuprofen, etc). *I'm NOT a doc so take it for what it's worth, but this has helped me in the past. I was having hip pain (still dealing with it some), and was prescribed 800 mg tabs of ibuprofen (it was the equivalant of 4x the OTC recommended dose).

Back off it until it feels better. Pain/injury is not the same as soreness, and shouldn't be treated the same. I'm sore, I stretch, warm up/cool down more. I'm injured, I'm on the shelf (or at least avoiding stressing the injury).


Thanks for the replies! I've been taking NSAIDs everyday as recommended by my doctor. My main issue is- how will I know when it is safe to start lifting again? Like I said in the first post, it felt fine last week but then after I lifted on it the soreness returned.

I've been out of the weight room for a week now, and though I am willing (reluctantly) to rest it for a little while longer, I just don't know how I will know when it's okay to lift at full intensity again. Any thoughts?


Everyone is going to recover at a different rate due to all the factors involved, so it's hard to say.

A week does not seem like very long to me, but I suppose it depends on the severity of it. Bret Favre rolled his ankle last weekend and he's 'possible' for Sunday already (quick recovery, somewhat minor sprain). Kobe Bryant is coming off knee surgery so is playing limited minutes early this season(surgury, freak of nature/pro-caliber, 24/7 rehab).

If it were me, I'd take more than a week off. If you've been getting after it for quite some time, chances are other parts of your body will thank you for the rest too. Perhaps you can take 2-3 weeks, and spend the time you would have been lifting on foam rolling (sarcasm as I think no one does enough of this, including myself, and now would be the time for you to get after it and improve tissue length and flexibility so you are ready to rock when you return).

*EASE back in to it, obviously.


I've decided to give it another full week of time off just to be safe. I also saw my PT today, and she examined me. She thinks that it is a pulled rhomboid and pulled erector spinae. She also commented that the entire upper left side of my back feels like a "rod of steel" due to how tight the muscles are. She said that this tightness could be causing my pain. I've been heating and stretching the area and taking NSAID's, but does anyone know of any other effective ways to get rid of the tightness? I'm thinking that if I can eliminate the tightness my pain will be significantly better.




I'd try the doorway pec stretch (arm up at 90 degree angle). If you are like 99.999% of us lifters, chest is super tight (esp pec minor). Stretching it can help to improve your shoulder health and posture, and allow your scapulae (shoulder blades) to retract and depress more as they are designed. Basically, stretching the antagonist (oppossing muscle) can help allow the protagonist (rhomboids, etc) to relax more.

Terrible analogy b/c I'm tired - Tug of war - you (rhomboids) are on one side, and the cast of Biggest Loser (chest, anterior delts, lats, etc) are all on the other side. You are going to be pushed to the max to hang on to the rope b/c of the opposing force, but if you can wave a cheeseburger in the air and get a few of those fatties to drop the rope (releasing the tight mucles in front, ESP pec minor), you'll have to work less. FYI - when I do that stretch, I find it takes some playing w/ my body lean, elbow height up the door frame, and how far I step in to the doorway, in order to FEEL THE STRETCH through the pecs.

You can also foam roll your pecs, and I find this one is actually a bit painful in relation to other body parts, but it's all relative.

Good luck!


When you are back to lifting again, I'd start w/ some lighter weight (to feel it out) seated rows. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades back and down, and the key is to shorten your typical row range of motion... don't extend your elbows all the way, FORGET YOUR ARMS, and simply feel your lower traps moving the weight (if you consider doing bi-s on back day, even though you aren't using your arms per-se, you will feel it due to not extending fully... the point in the movement of a full range row where it would be easier to take a break; even when you shouldn't).

I'd try sets of 6-10 w/ an isometric hold in the flexed position (blades together).

Key too is to make sure your lower traps and rhomboids are doing the work as it's easy to allow your upper traps to take over if you don't focus.


Okay thanks for all of the advice! I'm almost done with my 2 weeks of rest, so I think I am going to start doing some lightweight exercises soon. Hopefully I'll be back to full-time lifting quickyl!


Good luck man! I did some back work tonight, and another one I find beneficial is stiff arm pull downs. You have to get over the pencil necked d-bags looking at you like you've never lifted a weight and realize you could crush their puny carcass between your shoulder blades while doing this exercise, but it really helps (my pull ups shot way up after using these as finishers for a few months):

Set up for a typical pull down, and simply keep your elbows locked. Aim for depressing your scaps (shoulders) and squeezing... BACK AND DOWN! It's a short range of motion, but a great way to groove the proper pattern for getting your back to do the pulling... and how much more weight can you move w/ your back as compared to your arms?! Translation - You get used to this, you will feel your back pulling you toward the bar when you are doing chins, NOT your arms doing the work.

*This coming from "that stupid big guy who is too large to do pull ups, so he's over doing some dumb mock pull down..." Yet I can somehow teabag him now w/ the 45 pound plate hanging from the weightbelt I'm strapped w/ at the top of my 10th rep on the chin bar!


hahaha thanks for the advice with the pulldowns! once I start training again I will start using them. I used to use them as a finishing exercise a few months back, but for some reason they fell out of my routine. On another note, I went to my PT yesterday and she informed me that I have a large amount of scar tissue in my left scapular region as a result of the pulled rhomboid/lower trap. Other than massage (which I am getting), does anyone know how to remove this scar tissue? I think that this is the main thing holding me back at this point.


no prob man. it's easy to me to relate b/c I've gone to PT for a handful of things such as the upper back pain, tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, weak glutes, sand in my veejay, the usual... I relate 99% of them to sitting for 8 hours a day at a desk, to which I'm now working to actively combat w/ stretching throughout the day, foam rolling, cognicent posture improvement (hard habit to get used to), etc.

Has the massage loosened it up? Good luck!


NOTE ON RHOMBOIDS - These are the "core" musculature of the back. Keeping them healthy and strong will improve your posture, shoulder health, lifting numbers!


Honestly it's hard to tell if the massage loosened it up. The weird thing is that it doesn't hurt for the majority of the time, it isn't sore to the touch, and it doesn't hurt to contract it. The only time I experience pain is when I'm sitting/laying around, I will get a dull twinge of pain. It's basically felt the same for the past 2 weeks, even though I've been using heat, massage, stretching, ultrasound, and I haven't lifted at all.


Would Active Release Technique help my injury? I'm running out of ideas about what to do, and the fact that I still can't lift is really starting to get to me..


I have been dealing w/ the identical symptom for about 2 years now! It is way worse on days after I lift. I notice absolutely no difference in ability to perform an exercise, no pain, but a dull ache there much of the time (esp sitting for a long time). How is your posture and head position? My chiro adjusted my neck a handful of times and that seemed to help some (usually there is referred pain DOWN when it comes to back and spine musculature... poor alignment above affects down and out).

You should probably hit up your doc and see if you can go see a chiro. If that's what it is, the sooner the correction, the better.


I actually just got back from my first visit with a chiropractor (ever). She did some alignment stuff and then did a bit of ART. My back feels a bit looser, but the pain is still there. I'm going to get Trigger Point Dry Needling done later today, and they I have a deep tissue massage tomorrow. Hopefully all of this $$$$ and time will help!


Well after the deep tissue massage I was pretty sore, but felt really loose. However, today (the day after) I still have some slight pain in the rhomboid/trap area. Does anyone have any idea how long it will take for me to be pain free? It's been almost 3 weeks since I've lifted!


Beats me, at this point you're a few pay grades above my expertise on this, and have been to some people who have had hands on work with you. :wink: GOOD LUCK!