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7 ways latissimus dorsi muscle pain can be helped with PT

latissimus dorsi muscle pain
3 minutes, 23 seconds

If you’re experiencing pain in your lower back or shoulders, strain on the latissimus dorsi (LD) muscle is one possible cause. The latissimus dorsi is the wide, flat muscle that runs across the lower back and up to both armpits. Athletes and people who do a lot of repetitive arm movements like heavy lifting, throwing, climbing or shoveling are the most likely to develop LD injuries. However, there are a few exceptions. 

Latissimus dorsi muscle pain typically shows up at the back of the shoulder, the back of the armpits, the mid- to low back area, or across the upper body. If exercise and arm movements aren’t part of your routine, poor posture or osteoarthritis in your mid- to upper back could be causing your LD pain.

In this article, we’ll explore a few of the most effective physical therapy treatments for latissimus dorsi muscle pain.

Top 7 physical therapy treatments for latissimus dorsi pain

Several of the physical therapy treatments we use at Alliance partner clinics can be effective for latissimus dorsi muscle pain. The LD provides balance for the pectoralis major, or the chest muscle, so strategic movements in the arms, upper body and spine can provide relief. Other treatments may involve increasing blood flow in your back to break up stiffness in your soft tissue, reduce pressure and increase mobility. 

Depending on what’s causing your LD pain, the following physical therapy techniques may provide some relief:

  1. Spinal mobilization — In this manual therapy technique, the therapist uses their hands to stretch affected muscles in between the vertebrae to reduce painful pressure and increase mobility.
  2. Strain-counterstrain therapy — Also referred to as positional release therapy, strain-counterstrain is another manual therapy technique that can be used to relieve tension in muscles that are causing spasms and a reduced range of motion. The therapist gently holds the patient in positions for 90 seconds at a time to help relax the affected muscles. 
  3. Therapeutic exercise — Targeted exercises are often key to healing latissimus dorsi muscle pain. Your physical therapist may guide you through foam roller exercises to correct misalignments due to tightness or muscle knots and relieve soreness. Resistance band exercises can also be helpful: With the band secured, your therapist can show you how to safely pull your arms back in a rowing motion, down to your sides or out from your sides to form a T shape. 
  4. Stretching — Stretching exercises can improve your mobility and decrease the risk of future injury or re-injury to your LD. Your therapist can show you techniques like the seated twist, doorway shoulder stretch or downward dog stretch to practice at home.
  5. Cupping — This ancient practice has been used for thousands of years to relieve inflammation from many different ailments and increase blood flow for increased well-being and relaxation. Cupping is especially good for lower back pain.
  6. Dry needling — When tension is concentrated in tight bands or small areas known as trigger points, dry needling can provide relief. It increases blood flow to affected areas and releases lactic acid stored in muscles.
  7. Myofascial release — Another way to release trigger points in the low back is myofascial release. The therapist applies manual pressure to points of tension that feel like knots, reducing pain and increasing mobility.

Ways to minimize latissimus dorsi pain between physical therapy appointments

It’s important to see a physical therapist for back pain that’s consistent and ongoing because it can develop into a chronic issue. There are things you can do at home to help manage your latissimus dorsi muscle pain as you wait for your next physical therapy session. Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide temporary relief along with alternating heat and ice

Try these at-home strategies for relief from latissimus dorsi muscle pain between physical therapy appointments:

  • Maintain good posture and avoid slouching.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and after exercising.
  • Make sure you properly stretch and warm up before exercising or playing sports.
  • Apply a heating pad before working out.
  • Do cool-down exercises after working out.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find a caring partner to address your latissimus dorsi muscle pain

Need a partner to help you address your latissimus dorsi muscle pain? Alliance Physical Therapy Partners is here for you.

We can help you find the type of physical therapy that’s right for you, and even better, we’ll help you find a team of caring professionals who are ready to walk with you through your entire PT journey. 

Contact us today to start getting the care you need.


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