Tennis Ball Massage: Shoulder Blade Pain

People often tell me about their shoulder pain. They’ll use words to describe the pain – sharp, dull, achey, shooting, etc – and they’ll also use their hands to point out exactly where the pain is.

Shoulders are oddly complicated. There are two groups of muscles that make up your shoulders: the ones that connect at your rotator cuff, which are involved with arm movement; and the ones that connect at your scapula (the “shoulder blade”), involved more with your upper back. Muscles in both of these regions are commonly known as the shoulder muscles, even though they’re in different places and perform different actions.

But let’s talk about the muscles near your shoulder blade. What muscles are here? Most notably, the rhomboids (see diagram below) and your mid-trapezius. They’re involved in pulling your shoulders back (imagine touching your shoulder blades together), and shrugging your shoulders (rhomboids help bring the shoulder up, trapezius helps bring it down).


The problem area. Look familiar?

Why does this area hurt? It can hurt for a variety of reasons, usually due to overuse or posture (or both!). Personally, I find that these muscles bother me after a lot of physical activity. And the best course of action for making these muscles feel better is – would you believe it? – massage.

But unless you’re extra flexible, you can’t really reach that area yourself. And even if you could, the muscles you’d be using when massaging are the ones that you’d simultaneously be trying to relax, so it would all be a bit counterproductive. Solution? Tennis ball!

What to do:
Lie on the floor. Put a tennis ball under your back, between your spine and shoulder blade. Roll up and down on the tennis ball and vary the amount of weight you put on it. I would hold any uncomfortable spot for at least a few minutes – sometimes I’ll even take out a book and read for a bit while in this position.

Don’t have a tennis ball on hand? Try standing in a door frame with the edge digging directly into the muscles. Feels better than it sounds, I promise.

And that’s it! Applying ice to that region afterwards wouldn’t hurt either.

Naturally, if the pain keeps creeping back, a visit to a massage therapist would be the best long-term solution. But using a tennis ball for self-massage is great to ease muscle tension in between sessions.

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