A shoulder muscle spasm shouldn't be cause for much concern. Generally, it can be attended to with a few nonsurgical treatments and gentle exercises that work the shoulders as well as the back and neck.
Shoulder Muscle Spasm Causes
A shoulder muscle spasm often refers to a strain or spasm in the rhomboid muscles which are located in the upper back region and connect the inner sides of the shoulder blades to your spine, explains Tufts Medical Center.
Causes range from poor posture to carrying a heavy bag, especially if the weight is distributed unevenly, to activities that require reaching overhead (serving a tennis ball, reaching up to a high shelf). Rowing is another possible cause of rhomboid muscle strain or spasm.
While a strain causes pain in the upper back, a spasm may feel like a knot or muscle tightness. If you're experiencing symptoms, you can visit your healthcare provider who will inquire about medical history, symptoms and activities.
Read more: Stretches for Lower Back Spasms
Muscle Spasm Treatment and Prevention
A mild rhomboid spasm or strain may only take a few weeks for recovery, while a more severe case could take more than six weeks. You can begin treatment by avoiding activities, such as rowing, that cause muscle spasming and replacing them with other exercises.
If there's pain or swelling involved, you can use an ice pack or gel pack on the area every three to four hours for up to 20 minutes each time. You can also take non-prescription pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Remember to read the label carefully for dosage instructions and ask your doctor if you have any questions.
Mayo Clinic recommends methods to prevent spasming muscles in general. The first suggestion is to avoid dehydration, as fluids help your muscles contract and relax and sustain a certain level of hydration in muscle cells.
It's also important to stretch your muscles regularly. In fact, Mayo Clinic suggests stretching before and after using muscles for an extended amount of time. Certain risk factors that may increase your chances of a spasming muscle include certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, older age, pregnancy and dehydration.
Read more: Exercises for Upper Back Muscle Spasms
Rhomboid Spasm and Strain Exercises
There are plenty of muscle spasm neck, arm and back exercises you can do as part of your rehabilitation regimen prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist. For example, exercises suggested by Alberta Health Services include:
Move 1: Neck Stretches
- Looking straight ahead, tilt your head to the right so that your right ear is nearly touching your right shoulder. Do not move your shoulders as you do this.
- Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Next, do the same thing on the opposite side, tilting your head to the left, nearly touching your left ear to your left shoulder without moving the opposite shoulder.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds; then repeat two to four times on the left and right sides.
Move 2: Resisted Rows
- Take a stretchy band and secure it around a bedpost or a solid object, so that there are two sides of equal length and hold one side in each hand at waist level.
- Begin with your arms held out in front of you; then pull back and squeeze your shoulder blades together in a rowing motion. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Go back to the starting position and repeat eight to 12 times.
Summit Medical Group also suggests rhomboid spasm exercises, such as:
Move 3: Pectoralis Stretch
- Stand in a doorway or corner, place your arms above your head on the frame or wall.
- Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the shoulders.
- Hold 15 to 30 seconds; then repeat three times.
Move 4: Mid-Trap Exercise
- Lie on your stomach and position a folded pillow beneath your chest.
- Spread your arms out to the side, keeping them straight.
- Gradually raise your arms toward the ceiling, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Hold for 15 seconds; then repeat three times.