Many of us must not have heard this name earlier ‘Latissimus Dorsi.’ But because you have specially searched for it, you must have known about it. So let me tell the unknown readers that Latissimus Dorsi is a muscle in your back that is essential for breathing and it helps the flexibility of the rib cage as it expands and compresses.
Any injury or damage to this muscle could have a domino impact on the functioning of our body systems. Here in this article, you will learn the functions of this muscle, the causes of pain, its signs and symptoms and its treatment options including latissimus dorsi pain exercises.
A majority of the population has experienced muscle pain at some point in their life or the other. Among these, people complaining of pain in the back go beyond people suffering from pain in other regions to a considerable extent. Pain in this muscle is one such condition where a person will feel the pain in the shoulder, spinal area, and upper arm of the body.
Many of the people suffering from latissimus dorsi pain can get relief by rest, specific exercises or by following a corrected lifestyle pattern. However, in some cases, patients may require special care and attention.
The most common reason behind the pain and muscle spasms is a result of an injury sustained while enjoying sports or taking part in the strenuous physical activity.
Pain in the Latissimus dorsi could affect your respiration as this muscle assists in moving your ribs up and down. Sometimes, merely jerking your arm the wrong way is enough to drag or strain the Latissimus Dorsi muscle and cause sharp pain in your back.
Usually, strengthening the Latissimus dorsi muscle is one of the simplest ways to stop the pain in your middle or upper back. However, if you have got torn, stretched, or ripped part of the Latissimus dorsi, Massages & home treatments like heat and cold packs will facilitate to eliminate the pain.
What Does Latissimus Dorsi Mean?
This large and flat latissimus dorsi muscle is located in the middle of the back which extends vertically from the shoulder blade towards the lower back. It’s usually referred to as ‘’lats’’ that are connected to your spine, hip bone, and upper arm bone (humerus) in your shoulder blade. Basically, the muscle’s name means “broadest muscle of the back.” Consequently, the muscle enables the arm and shoulder to perform movements such as adduction, extension, and rotation.
You use this muscle as you go concerning your day to day activities. For example, whenever you push on the arms of a chair to stand up, you indulge this muscle to give yourself stability and leverage.
When you have injury in latissimus dorsi, you might feel pain in your low back, mid-to-upper back, along with the base of your scapula, or in the back of the shoulder. You may also experience soreness along the inside of the arm, down to your hands and fingers.
The Journal of Voice reported that Latissimus dorsi helps the chest broaden and contract as you breathe. Other studies into the effect of breathing on the Latissimus dorsi muscle found that deep breathing while exercising causes muscle fatigue of the Latissimus dorsi.
Function of Latissimus Dorsi Muscle
Now you are aware that Latissimus Dorsi primarily refers to the broadest muscle present in the back of the body and is generally known as ‘lats’ among bodybuilders. These muscles are linked to a substantial portion of the lower backbone by a layer of tissue known as thoracolumbar fascia. The muscle rises to meet the shoulder area and is secured to an indentation on the humerus, often called the upper arm bone.
Under idle circumstances, the Latissimus Dorsi performs the following functions-
- Latissimus Dorsi muscles play a harmonious role in the protraction and oblique flexion of the lumbar spine.
- Adduction, extension, horizontal adduction or traverse extension, internal rotation of the shoulder blades and flexing from a protracted position.
- These muscles are also known as “accessory breathing muscles” as they help in the expansion and compression of the rib cage and helps in breathing to a certain extent.
Symptoms of Latissimus Dorsi Pain
It may be challenging to determine if the pain is located in the latissimus dorsi or other muscles in the shoulders or back. Pain in the Latissimus dorsi may cause soreness in the back as well as in the surrounding limbs and tissues.
When the latissimus dorsi is injured, you might feel pain in many areas, including:
- back of the shoulders
- the lower, middle, and upper back
- base of the scapula, commonly known as the shoulder blade
- inside of the arms, extending down to the fingers
- the lower arms
Sometimes, the pain will arise unexpectedly, and you may feel it in surrounding muscles. This pain sometimes gets worse when the person stretches their hands to the front, raises their hands above their head, or throws an object.
Injury to the latissimus dorsi can cause other symptoms. They may include:
- difficulty breathing
- tingling in the lower arms
- tendonitis in the middle and lower back
You should always consult a health care provider when you are not able to identify the source of back pain, or if it is associated with following as this might be a sign of a severe health problem:
- trouble breathing
- abdominal pain
These signs and symptoms will help figure out the cause of the injury or damage since many patients do not recall a major incident with the pain.
Causes of Latissimus Dorsi Pain
The Latissimus Dorsi muscles are in a state of continuous activity as most of the activities carried out by the body make use of these muscles.
There are numerous ways somebody can hurt or injure this area of the body, but let’s take a look at some of the common Latissimus Dorsi pain causes.
- Activities that involves heavy throwing or pulling, for example, rock climbing, training for strength, gymnastics and the like can cause latissimus dorsi pain.
- Ball games, like, pitching or throwing the ball can also injure the Latissimus Dorsi muscle.
- Another cause of Latissimus dorsi pain can be the activities which need the repeated movement of the shoulder blades in an upward motion, for example, swing baseball bats, rowing, chopping wood, tennis rackets, and swimming, shovelling snow or dirt and the like.
- Specific workouts such as pushups that need constant pulling up and pushing down using the arms can also be one of the causes of latissimus dorsi muscle pain.
- Pain can also activate by repeatedly reaching forward or overhead.
- Poor posture or Incorrect posture when exercising is another reason for causing strain on your Latissimus dorsi muscle resulting in recurring back pain and shoulder pain. Sitting or standing in the wrong position while lifting weights, exercising, or hitting a ball with a racket can pull the muscles attached to your lower spine and shoulder.
Professional athletes like golfers, track athletes, gymnasts, water skiers, and, baseball pitchers are known to tear their latissimus dorsi muscles often.
The Latissimus Dorsi muscle is not likely to cause trouble even if it is “tight” or has “tender points”. Hence, it becomes difficult to recognize if there is something wrong with the muscle and therefore, to diagnose the condition, you should carefully identify the problem.
How to Diagnose Latissimus Dorsi pain
If you are diagnosing the problem in latissimus dorsi muscle from symptoms mentioned above, then my friend this is not the proper way as you can have the issues with regions other than the latissimus dorsi.
Hence, I recommend you to visit any doctor as there are a few ways to diagnose a person with pain in the latissimus dorsi muscle. The doctor will first assess the symptoms the patient describes but will additionally rely on the process of elimination.
Here is what a doctor will examine:
Checks for a compressed nerve in the backbone which can cause discomfort, numbness, tingling, or some weakness in the nerve. Usually, radiculopathy is found in the lower back and the neck.
Suprascapular Nerve Entrapment
This is shoulder pain that has signs and symptoms that are similar to rotator cuff signs Although rare, Suprascapular nerve entrapment has been found to be a common causative factor of shoulder pain among athletes participating in overhead exercises.
This includes inflammation of the tendon around the biceps and is generally caused by the degeneration of the tendons in the biceps due to activities requiring overhead motion.
Checking a patient with the above in mind is a part of making a differential medical diagnosis. It’s a procedure of differentiating between two or more conditions that share similar signs or symptoms. If the physician rules out all other feasible causes, then the patient can go for latissimus dorsi treatment.
In case you feel you may have harmed this muscle, you should validate your doubts before engaging in any latissimus dorsi muscle pain relief. If it isn’t this muscle that is creating the pain, you could make your problem worse by treating it wrong.
How to Treat Latissimus Dorsi Pain
We know that exercises are always the best treatment for any kind of muscle problems and in the same way, exercise is very beneficial for latissimus dorsi pain. But, treatment may take time, and plenty of rest is needed depending on the severity of damage to this muscle.
I will share with you one of the best methods to relieve the muscle pain quicker and accelerate the healing process.
R.I.C.E. Pain Relief Method
A tried and tested method to help treat any kind of muscle injury, including getting rid of Latissimus dorsi pain. This involves a combination of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation to help manage and reduce the pain.
The journal Clinics and Practice indeed recommends P.R.I.C.E. to get relief from Latissimus dorsi muscle tears. (PRICE is a variation on the RICE method but adds the concept of “Protection” for the injured area).
Let’s read, how to get relief from Latissimus dorsi muscle pain using the P.R.I.C.E. pain relief method:
1. Protect the area from further injury using shoulder support so you can limit arm movement.
2. Rest helps the healing process, and you should avoid activities that could injure your back muscles further.
3. Ice should be used to help reduce swelling and limit pain in the injured area. Place crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover with a towel.
4. Compression bandage should be used to prevent inflammation in the injury.
5. Elevation of the back is possible by sitting in a recliner or upright chair. This helps to improve blood circulation and promote healing and pain relief.
Here comes the treatment program which includes a series of strengthening exercise you should follow once inflammation and swelling disappear and pain recedes.
Use your fingers to massage the tender points of the muscle gently. You can also use tennis balls on the back as you lean against the wall and slide your body up and down and from side to side. A foam roller can work as well.
Performing a stretch may speed up the healing time while targeting the pain. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and arms stretched above the head. Lean to one side, holding the position for five seconds before repeating on another side.
Under the hands of a trained acupuncturist, the use of this therapy may help to alleviate pain and soreness. This encourages the body to promote natural healing. You can take help from a professional acupuncture specialist who inserts needles into precise points on your body.
Force Up and Pull Down Exercises
These two exercises are also quite useful in getting rid of this muscle pain. You should avoid swinging the body while doing the force up exercise. Pulldowns, on the other hand, involves the pulling down of the weights instead of moving the body through swinging the body should be avoided here as well.
Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy
Myofascial trigger point therapy can also treat muscle knots by directly applying the pressure on the knots while putting the surrounding muscles into motion.
Apart from the above methods, potassium and calcium deficiency can also lead to this muscle pain. Hence, doctors may prescribe the oral anti-inflammatory drugs along with the multi-vitamin tablets to treat the injury area efficiently.
As the muscle heals, you should take specific safety measures when doing the above exercises and moving about during daily activities. Avoid pulling or pushing a considerable amount of weight.
You can also follow the below specific corrective actions while undergoing treatment-
- You should avoid overloading the muscles
- The arms should be kept in a vertical position with the position of the elbow while pulling down.
- You should make use of a stool while reaching for things kept overhead.
- A pillow needs to be placed under the armpit, in between the chest and the elbow to prevent the shortening of the muscles over a prolonged period.
Exercises for Latissimus Dorsi Muscle
Your healthcare provider or physician may recommend specific exercises to strengthen the Latissimus dorsi muscle to help remove pain. It is essential to perform the exercise in a correct form and to ensure that the exercise you are doing is right.
The following three exercises can reduce latissimus dorsi pain. Your doctor can recommend how often a person should perform these exercises. Never continue an exercise that is painful or too uncomfortable:
Pelvic Raise or Lift
What you have to do?
- Lay flat on the back with the arms at the sides.
- Bend the legs so that the heels are closer to the buttocks.
- Lift the pelvis toward the ceiling.
- Slowly lower it to the floor, keeping the hands and feet in place.
The back bow yoga pose can help reduce pain and strengthen the muscle. This pose is like “the Superman,” because it resembles how he flies.
What you have to do?
- Lay face down on a yoga mat
- Extend straightened legs and arms away from the body, so that the arms are in front of the head.
- Use the back to raise the shoulders and extended limbs toward the ceiling.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds before lowering.
What you have to do?
- Sit on a chair and place a light bar on your shoulders behind your head (a broom handle will work).
- Keeping your back straight and your chest out, slowly twist to the right as far as you can.
- Then twist around to the left and repeat 10-15 times.
Remember, exercising should never hurt. If you feel a sudden pain in your back muscles or pain in your lower back or shoulders, you should stop the exercises immediately.
How to Prevent Latissimus Dorsi Pain
Now that you have recovered from injury and you no longer have pain in this muscle, it’s important to take some steps to prevent recurring pain. The following advice is helpful if you suffer from chronic pain in the Latissimus dorsi muscles.
Heat Before Exercising
To help prevent pain in your lower back or shoulder when exercising, apply a heat pack to your muscles before performing the workout. This will help to loosen the muscles and tendons and prevent straining the Latissimus dorsi.
Maintain proper posture when sitting, standing, and walking. The pain experienced with an injury can be caused by spasms when leaned over or slouching.
Here are a few ideas to help keep a good posture and prevent back problems giving you pain:
• Always sit up straight on a chair with your chin and head straight back.
• Keep your shoulder back and your chest out while sitting or walking.
• Do little stretching exercises regularly throughout the day to keep your shoulders, neck, and back tension-free.
Strengthen Core Muscles
Your “lats” are part of your core muscles, and the healthier your core is, the fewer chances there’s that you’re going to suffer from back pain and Latissimus dorsi injuries.
One great way to strengthen your core at home is to do planks. The benefits of planks are that they heal back pain, improve posture and flexibility, and also help you to lose belly fat.
To strengthen your “lats” using planks, this is what you should do:
1. Lay down and rest your upper body on your elbows and your lower body on your tiptoes.
2. Make sure that your shoulders are directly above your elbows.
3. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold the position for as long as you can.
4. Rest for 20 seconds, then repeat.
5. Do this 2-3 times every day.
Very soon, you should feel that you can hold the plank position for longer and in time your back pain should ease up and go away completely.
Stretching Exercises & Massage
Occasional massages help loosen the knots in the Latissimus Dorsi region. You should also perform stretching exercise 2-3 times a week to make this preventive measure effective.
Do cool-down Exercises
Following a workout, it is essential to do cool-down exercises like walking, child poses, light cardio or jumping jacks.
By drinking plenty of water throughout the day, you can maintain flexibility of the muscle for proper movement. As the muscle can quickly become dehydrated with exercise, it is essential to drink water before and after.
The enumerated preventive measures along with a balanced healthy diet and exercise can bring about a significant change in avoiding and even curing pain in the Latissimus Dorsi muscle.
While the latissimus dorsi can cause terrible pain, in the majority of cases, the pain goes away on its own with some exercise and proper rest. If the pain is severe is not going away, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.
The latissimus dorsi is one of the largest muscles in the human body, and it is involved in the activities like the movement of our upper arms, shoulders, and even our breathing. Harm to the muscle can cause discomfort and sharp pain with the tiniest movements. The regular actions of pulling, pushing, as well as throwing, can result in such damage.
Treatment method consists of workout routines for pain management and recovery. You might not be able to prevent injury to the latissimus dorsi muscle; however, you will find precautions to take to try to reduce the pain of this condition.
Most latissimus dorsi pain disappears on its own with rest and home physical exercises. If your pain is extreme or is not going away, you can speak with your doctor about other treatment options.
Also, seek advice from a doctor before trying a new exercise to make sure that it is the right choice & to learn proper form. Lastly, I would say, it costs nothing to stay healthy . And I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a HEALTHY YOU. 🙂 🙂