The Rhomboid Muscle


April 8, 2015     muscle | shoulders | Anatomy | Upper Limb

Rhomboids – movers of the scapula

Among muscles, the rhomboids are very popular. Unfortunately, these muscles are often popular for the wrong reasons. They are often associated with upper back pain, particularly from sitting for prolonged periods as well as generalized postural problems. While, these muscles may be where you feel pain, it doesn’t mean that they are the source of that pain.

What does the name of the rhomboid muscle mean?

The rhomboid muscle is named for its shape. Specifically, the name comes from the Greek “rhombos”, which describes the angled parallelogram shape.

The rhomboids are part of the deep layer of muscles on the back and are located between the scapula and the spine. These muscles run deep to the trapezius, which means you’ll find them underneath the trapezius. Interestingly, they are sometimes referred to as the Christmas tree muscles due to their shape.

Based on their location, the rhomboids are divided into a major and minor portion which originate and insert in different places.

Where do the rhomboid muscles attach?

Origin

  • You’ll find the origin of rhomboids major on the spinous processes of vertebrae T2-T5.
  • Rhomboids minor, however, attaches on the spinous processes of vertebrae C7 and T1.

Insertion

  • Rhomboids major inserts on the vertebral border (edge closest to the spine) from the root of the spine to the inferior angle (bottom of the scapula).
  • Rhomboids minor, however, inserts on the root of the spine of the scapula.
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The Rhomboids Muscle Attachments

What actions do the rhomboid muscles do?

  • These muscles retract the scapula, which means the scapula moves toward spine.
  • Additionally, they also downwardly rotate the scapula, which means the top of the scapula tilts down and forward.

Postures where this muscle contracts

In the variation of shalabasana below, notice that the rhomboids contract and the shoulder blades retract toward the spine.

rhomboid muscle in shalabasana

Postures where this muscle lengthens

When the arms are in vatayanasana, the shoulder blades are pulled around the front of the body (protraction), which lengthens the rhomboid muscles.

rhomboid muscle in vatayanasana

Trigger points

 

The Rhomboids Muscle Trigger Points

Comments

  1. David, from your last few posts would it be accurate to observe that some past & current issues with subscapularis may be because of overcompensating for weak rhomboids (on and off the mat)? You identified and showed me how to work through a frozen shoulder several years ago by targeting what look like the rhomboid trigger points illustrated above. Does “rounding out” the shoulder area in, for example, downward dog (by keeping the front ribs in) strengthen the rhomboids? What are some other safe ways to strengthen this area in working toward asanas like pincha mayurasana? And then how does this all relate to the “T5” area that seems to “ache” when putting the crown of the head on the mat during headstand (something new). Many thanks for all your great info!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Karen,

      First, the relationship between rhomboids and subscapularis is minimal. Rhomboids moves the scapula while subscap moves the humerus. More relationship between rhomboids and serratus anterior as rhomboids retracts the scapula and serratus protracts it. You seem to be alluding to serratus however in your suggestion of “rounding out” the shoulders in down dog. You would certainly want a strong serratus in pincha mayurasana as well as headstand… I discuss this pretty fully in Functional Anatomy Of yoga.

      Having said that, I may have done some work with you on your subscapularis if you had a frozen shoulder. I can’t remember.

      As for headstand, try keeping the weight out of your head or change head positions to see if it alleviates the T5 issue.