Lats or the latissimus dorsi are the wings of your back that create a V-taper in your physique. Now, imagine what will happen to the bird if its wings got injured or are in pain? Exactly it will not be able to fly. In the same way, the latissimus dorsi pain plays a vital role in our lives when it comes to mobility, rigidness of physique, and even performing day-to-day work. All these are in some manner done by utilizing your latissimus dorsi muscles without even you knowing about it.
Following are the actions of latissimus dorsi:
- Shoulder movements
- Adduction, extension, rotation of the arm at the shoulder
- Maintaining neutrality or depression in the shoulder
- Chest expansion while breathing
- Maintaining a healthy and stable posture of your body
- Aesthetic look and feel of your body
- Pull movements like opening doors, pull-ups, bench press swimming, etc.
Also read: IASTM tools – Complete guide and benefits
What does latissimus dorsi pain feel like?
When your latissimus dorsi is in pain or is injured, it might make you feel pain in your lower back, upper back, back of your shoulder, or in the scapula. You might even feel pain in your arms or even your hands and fingers. Anyone or more of these signs are a symptom that your latissimus dorsi is injured or something isn’t right in your lats
Body points triggered after latissimus dorsi injury include: severe back pain even at resting state, restricted shoulder movement, pain in your shoulder blades, thoracic outlet syndrome(TOC), pain in lifting your arms, or inability to lift arms are some common trigger points of your body.
Some activities are responsible for aggravating trigger points sports, heavy lifting, or Jobs with physical intervention and tight clothing like a poorly fitting bra. (more on these activities later)
An injured latissimus dorsi might cause other uncommon symptoms:
- tingling sensation in the arms or fingers
- difficulty in breathing
- tendonitis in the middle and lower back
Immediately Contact your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms with a fever or chest/abdominal pain while having latissimus dorsi pain, which is an issue of concern and complies with a serious lats injury or a condition.
What are the causes of latissimus dorsi pain?
Many factors contribute to injury in your lats or cause strain to it. Still, the most contributing directly to lats damage is sports, athletics, and lifting weights, the reason being most of the pulling and throwing movements are performed in these activities. The form is also fundamental while performing these activities. Poor form, lack of guidance, ignoring muscle warm-ups, and lifting or throwing excessive weights put a toll on the latissimus dorsi leading to pain and injury. Other activities that can cause latissimus dorsi pain include and should be performed with precaution:
- Shoveling snow
- Chopping wood
- Back Exercises (mainly deadlifts and bent rows)
Degree of injury
There are two possibilities: The first one is strain/micro level damage to your latissimus dorsi, which will heal with some time by taking precautions, rest, and medications; in this case, the symptoms would be mild.
The severity of a strain injury includes sharp pain, bruises or redness from blood vessel damage, swelling, muscle spasms/cramps, difficulty in moving, or weakness. With a lat strain, you might notice pain while attempting to extend your arm straight back or when rotating it toward your trunk.
The second one is the worst-case scenario, which is that your latissimus dorsi might tear. Which often happens to professional athletes, such as water skiers, golfers, baseball pitchers, swimmers, rock climbers, sprinters, and bodybuilders. But a shock or a severe injury in the form of an accident or sudden muscular strain can cause it as well.
A tear in the latissimus dorsi tendon will be felt with a popping sound when an injury occurs. A burning sensation, redness, and swelling are the signs that your latissimus dorsi muscle is torn. With a complete tear, your arm movement will be obstructed entirely in backward movement as soon as the injury takes place.
How to diagnose if your latissimus dorsi is injured or not
1. Manual diagnosis by an expert.
Latissimus dorsi strain can be diagnosed with a manual test. This is often performed by an orthopedic, physical therapist, or doctor. Who will examine you physically and perform several tests in which you will move your hands backward and by touching several points in your lats.
2. CT/MRI scan
It is a definitive test and will surely give you a concrete picture of your latissimus dorsi muscles, whether it is a muscle strain, knot, spasm, pulled muscle, cramp, or a complete tear. Most experts advise getting a CT/MRI scan for your lats to make sure they prescribe suitable medications and treatment advice for recovery.
How to treat latissimus dorsi pain
Although This directly depends on the severity of your injury and symptoms. These are broken into operative and nonoperative treatment options, but mostly the latissimus dorsi can be treated non-operatively with many treatments, rehabilitation options, and medications that are available over the counter
Surgical treatment of latissimus dorsi pain
Severe cases with a complete tear in lat muscle, or tear at joints of shoulder or humerus have to undergo surgical treatments along with other rehabilitation and strengthening programs. Studies have shown that surgical options can lead to full recovery.
This study shows a severe lat tear/teres major in 11 baseball sportsperson who underwent surgery, recovered fully within a mean time of year two and went back to sports with no change in their physical output. A person working in SWAT ruptured his lats and underwent surgery after 6 weeks he was referred for physical therapy and recovered fast with the combined treatment.
Conservative treatments of latissimus dorsi pain
These are the treatment and rehabilitation options apart from surgery and are very effective in recovering from pain and injury. This study even says that conservative treatment options are better than surgical options where the latissimus dorsi tear is intramuscular and the latissimus dorsi maintains its auxiliary function after the trauma or accident.
There are many evidence and studies that show that nonsurgical treatments are very successful among cross-fitters, soccer players, sprinters , and even individuals who underwent surgery. They were advised to follow rehabilitation and lats conditioning, strengthening exercises.
All the above studies show sports come back within 3-12 months without operative/non-operative procedures for minor tears in the latissimus dorsi of different individuals in different sports backgrounds; recovered to pre-injury strength levels of 85%-100% with a major tear and back to their work.
How can this pain be treated?
Treatment options for latissimus dorsi pain usually involve rest and physical exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons and to regain a full range of motion to perform similar activities before any injury. All the below-mentioned treatments and remedies are advised by looking at the present literature and taking expert advice; these can be performed by someone experiencing lower levels of pain and injury severity to major injury levels after their successful surgical treatment.
In surgical options, these exercises and remedies are advised to be done after 4-6 weeks after the surgery. Your doctor or surgeon’s advice is a must before doing any of these.
Rest the muscle
Rest is the biggest friend of yours to heal any kind of injury. As they say, time heals everything herein by the time they refer to if you take proper rest, then as time passes, the body heals itself. Where the rest can take place in the form of rice treatment. Now don’t start putting all the rice into your belly. RICE stands to Rest, Icing, Compression, Elevation. This treatment is the nascent or the initial treatment towards any kind of sports injury and is very useful in healing and recovering your muscles and according to Mayo Clinic rice treatments can heal your injury within a week depending on its condition
- Rest – By not utilizing your back and shoulder movement for any kind of physical activity
- Icing – Ice pack application onto your painful areas of latissimus dorsi or on other painful areas.
- Compression – By applying any form of bandage or elastic bandage onto your sore muscles
- Elevation – By elevating your injury area by sitting perpendicular and let the blood blow to it properly with all the healing factors the body releases.
- Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation consists of any effort made towards the injured to drive him back on track, where he was at pre-injury/pain. The following are the good practices and remedies performed in rehabilitation.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are an over-the-counter option to counter up chronic latissimus dorsi pain. These drugs include ibuprofen, aspirin, celecoxib, etc. These would help alleviate your pain and swelling; your physician might also advise a steroidal or a stronger medication as per your severity of pain and/or injury, which will help recover from the injury.
Some other medications, like joint supports or collagen support, or vitamins, can be prescribed by the doctor if the injury is at a joint location or to support tear healing metabolism.
Therapies are a great option to treat any kind of muscle therapy many traditional; new therapies have been effective; they must be considered for treatment eg, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, myofascial release, IASTM, cryotherapy, or acupuncture. Some new therapies like trigger point therapy that specifically target your injured area or any painful area are of interest and increasingly accepted. Apart from these electro muscle stimulation(EMS) aka “electromayostimulation” has also shown significant results in relieving pain, decreasing latissimus dorsi strain recovery time and range of motion in injured muscles. You can go for one of these therapies for better treatment and faster recovery.
Supportive gear and special garments can also be prescribed to maintain posture and restrain the movement of your latissimus dorsi muscles or shoulder. Lumbar support garments and belts are advised to be worn during painful times. They will also help in the elevation of these muscles, which is essential in RICE treatment.
Latissimus dorsi exercises
Exercises are performed to strengthen your lats muscle and bring back its range of motion as well as its normal functioning. It also alleviates your pain and relieves tension in the muscles and prevents further injury.
Exercises for pain relief
A person must consult an expert, such as a doctor or fitness trainer, to make sure that the exercises are right for them at a particular moment.
These two exercises can reduce latissimus dorsi muscle pain. The frequency of doing these exercises depends on your response. If any pain occurs during or after exercises, one should immediately stop doing it in the first place.
1. Back bow – This is an effective exercise to relieve pain in your lats and is easy to perform just lay down towards your face on a flat surface and raise yourself upwards using your latissimus dorsi, arms, and legs as demonstrated in the video below.
2. Pelvic lift – is an exercise that works on your lower back and glutes and will help you reduce your lower back pains. To perform pelvic lift lay down onto a flat surface with your face opposite to the surface. Now with your legs folded in a reversed position, slowly raise your body with the help of glutes and lats with your arms and feet onto the surface look at the picture below.
Strengthen your back
This is the next step when you have no pain left in your lats. You can perform lats strengthening exercises that will allow you to resume your daily activities or workouts. This can be done with light weights or using resistance bands.
1. Arm movement on wall – Stand against the wall with your body opposite to the wall and raise your hands like a clock and move with the wall in a circle and halt for 3-5 secs at a stop and slowly move hands back to normal position.
2. Lat pulldowns with resistance bands – Lat pulldowns are the ultimate lat muscles strengthening exercise and put the resistance band around shoulder height at any location in your house. Hold one end in each hand, straighten your elbows, pull your arms down until they reach your sides, and then slowly allow them to rise back into starting position.
3. Side raises – It is an adduction exercise, which also targets your lat muscles. Use a resistant band, put one end below your feet, and laterally raise one arm holding the other end of a resistance band to shoulder height. Repeating this will also strengthen your latissimus dorsi muscles.
4. Rotator cuff movement with resistance band is also beneficial to increase your ROM of shoulders and strengthen your lats muscles. Put the resistant band at about your waist level to a hook point. With your single arm, hold the other hand and stretch towards your different side waist, as shown in the image below.
If your latissimus dorsi feels tight, try these stretches to loosen it
Latissimus dorsi stretch
This stretch can be done to loosen up your lats and can be done manually or by using your prop to do this stretch raise your arm and hold your hand with the other hand and move it downwards behind your neck and do the vice-versa. By using an object and leaning onto it by one hand and stretching your lats is also an option for an extended stretch.
Foam rolling your lats can help in improving flexibility and remove strains after injury. Apply pressure according to your pain, and if symptoms worsen stop moving onto muscles this can also be performed With a ball by Placing the ball on the desired area and lean against a wall and roll over the painful area.
Yoga can effectively strengthen and lengthen your latissimus dorsi muscle, treat symptoms relating to muscle pain. These effective yoga poses can be incorporated into your exercise. IF you have no prior yoga experience, then start slowly and Try incorporating more postures. Yoga poses, which will help you in getting your pulling ability to practice using a pull-up bar near to the floor for you to use your feet as assistance to pull yourself up.
1. Balasana (child pose)
This pose is simple yet effective in yoga to strengthen the upper back, Sit in the position with your legs folded inwards and slowly with your hands and leaning your back move downwards to the position as in the image and stay there for 10-20 seconds. Then move back again to the sitting position do this exercise for about 5-10 mins to gain more flexibility and strengthen your upper and lower back.
2. Dandasana (staff pose)
Dandasana is a simple and stable posture that helps in correcting your form and strengthen your back muscles. Just Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you next to each other and also works on our hamstrings, so use a foam sheet beneath the surface where you perform.
Make sure that your form and alignment is correct by sitting next to a wall so that only your sacrum and shoulder blades touch the wall and not the back of your head or your lower back. Then tighten your thigh muscles, and press them down against the floor. Rotate your thighs inward and your inner groin toward your sacrum. Flex your ankles by pushing outward through your heels and stay in this position for about 20-30 seconds and release
Take a rest of 45 sec and repeat the posture. These yoga exercises will increase your mobility and strengthen your lats muscle.
Preventive steps towards latissimus dorsi injury
You can avoid latissimus dorsi pain by taking a few preventive steps and take these precautions more seriously, especially if you are an athlete and regularly exercise or play sports.
- Using proper form during sports and exercise
- Maintain good posture and use Posture positioning device if posture is incorrect
- Staying hydrated throughout the day, especially before and after exercising
- Often Massage/IASTM or other therapies to loosen any tightness in your back and shoulders
- Ensure you properly stretch and warm-up before exercising or playing sports and cool down after your exercise
- Avoiding overuse of the muscle/ Lifting weights more than muscle capacity
- Have a balanced nutrition Diet
- Take Spa, and do hot Oiling of back muscles
The latissimus dorsi muscles are vital muscles in your body. Any damage to it can cause devastating results to your mobility, range of motion, and cause chronic pains. Its treatment and prevention are essential and must be performed in the early stages. Diagnosis should be immediately made, and a decision of treatment method must be made by the doctor or physician accordingly.
There are several conventional treatments available that can help people suffering from back pain. Still, these treatments can be invasive and use steroids or inherently risky compounds to your health. It’s essential to prevent injury in the first place by abiding by all the preventive measures like drinking water, doing warm-up exercises, cooling down after workouts, and receiving therapy treatment.
One of the most effective ways to prevent and treat Latissimus injuries and pain is back stretching and yoga postures by incorporating these poses into your yoga or exercise regime, to reduce your risk of experiencing back problems.
All the treatments mentioned above and exercises are advised to be performed according to your degree of injury and pain level and also by discussing with your doctor, orthopedic, or sports physiotherapist.
Also read: Best self-myofascial release tools to vanish your pain