Remedial Massage

Why you should never stretch your rhomboids (unless you’re in the army)


Reciprocal inhibition is a muscle reflex that sends an inhibitory motor nerve signal to the muscles opposite those contracting.

So, if your chest muscles are short (as they are when your shoulders are rolled around to the front, which is guaranteed if you drive a desk every day), then your upper back muscles (rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius, and upper back erectors) end up long, weak, and inhibited.

Don’t stretch muscles that are already long and weak! If your back muscles are feeling tense, it’s because they are LONG and tight, not short and tight. They are also holding on for dear life, stopping you from falling over forwards – that’s why they’re tight.

At the same time they are getting inhibitory motor signals, which is contradictory and confusing. This makes them more prone to spasm and injury.

Strengthen your back muscles and stretch your chest muscles to achieve balance, and to reduce your chances of spasm and injury.

You’re in the army now

The only exception I can think of to this rule is if you’re in sections of the armed forces.

Standing to attention (“ten-HUT!”) involves pulling the shoulders firmly back and down. Infantry also tend to do a LOT of physical fitness activities, and not so much desk work.

In these instances stretching your rhomboids may be a necessary part of your fitness protocol.

But that’s pretty much all I can think of…   can you think of any other groups that might need to stretch their rhoms out? Let me know!