Today I met with a new client. Dave is a golfer and lives in the same community where I am living, so we met through a mutual acquaintance. He was concerned because pain in his mid-back was causing him to lose power in his swing. He already had gone to the chiropractor, but that didn’t help, and his physical therapist had given him some exercises that worked for a few days, but then made it worse, so he didn’t know what to do.
Since I came down to Florida I’ve decided that my primary focus is on teaching people how to self-treat because they can’t see me all the time. That’s especially true since many of the people here are “snow birds,” which means they’ll be heading north within the next few weeks. In fact, Dave is leaving this coming Saturday so he was really happy to know that I’d teach him how to self-treat.
Dave thought the pain was coming from his rhomboids, the muscle that is between your shoulder blades, but it wasn’t. The interesting thing about mid-back pain is it is frequently coming from a muscle that is in the front of the body, between the ribs about mid-way down your chest. If you stand with your arms crossed the area is just about where your thumbs touch your ribs. Sure enough, there was a spasm in the muscle (called “intercostals“) which is between each rib. Your intercostal muscles lift your ribcage when you take in a breath. When there is a spasm in the muscle it won’t let your ribcage open, and you feel a pain that feels like a pin is being pushed into the muscle.
Another muscle that was involved was his serratus anterior, This muscle brings your shoulder blade forward and rotates it upward. However, when the muscle is tight it is causing pressure to be felt on the muscles that are in the mid-back, between your shoulder blades. Dave had both of these situations happening to him.
The treatment was easy. Take a tennis ball, put it in front of your shoulder blade (basically under your arm, close to your armpit) and lean against a wall. He could feel it referring to his mid-back as soon as he leaned into the ball.
There are a lot of muscles that impact your shoulder, many of them referring pain to your mid-back, or your upper back. If you already have Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living you already have the treatments for each of them. I suggest you look at the shoulder chapter and do all of the treatments shown. You’ll be surprised where you feel the pain whenever you press into a spasm, it’s usually some distance from the spasm.
The bottom-line today is that Dave was able to find the spasms himself (he was pretty surprised at that fact) and then treat them with a tennis ball and his finger tips.
My suggestion is, the spasm is rarely where you’re feeling the pain. Use a tennis ball, press into the wall, and search for “hot spots.” When you find one, stay on it for 30 seconds to allow the muscle to relax. The odds are good that you’ll get relief, and that it will stay released.
Wishing you well,