Full Title: Rhomboid

Author: Donna Cvetinic

Date of Publication: April 8, 2015

PDF: http://petmassage.com/wp-content/uploads/Rhomboid-by-Donna-Cvetinic-2015-04-08.pdf

Research Paper Text:

The Rhomboids are muscles of the neck which assist the movements of the forelegs. They are shaped like a Rhombus/parallelogram, with opposite sides and angles equal.

The Rhomboids are deep muscles which share their origin with the trapezius. The tendons anchor on the lower cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae (withers area) and the nuchal ligament. The Rhomboids insert along the medial dorsal border of the scapula and pulls the scapula against the trunk.

The cervical plexus innervates the muscles of the neck through ventral branches of the cervical and thoracic nerves.

Oxygenated blood leaves the heart through the aorta onto the subclavian artery which supplies blood to the forelimb, neck and cervicothoracic junction. It moves around the cranial border of the first rib and enters the limb via the axilla and becomes the axillary artery.

The Rhomboids act with the trapezius as a stabilizer for the foreleg. They are involved in retraction, abduction and adduction of the foreleg. The Rhomboids are also involved in neck extension.

When these muscles are tight, the dog loses flexibility with restricted foreleg movements, poor coordination and some loss of power. The area around the withers will be sore on palpation, triggering stress points to form in other muscle groups in the neck, shoulders, back and hindquarters.

When you apply pressure to stress points 6, 7, and 8, the dog will lower his neck. Stress points 6, 7 and 8 are felt as tight lines from withers to scapula. If these stress points only react to deeper pressure, then the muscle affected is the rhomboids.

In order to reach the deeper tissues, the overlying muscles must be warmed up using lighter pressure with stroking, moving to deeper pressure with effleurage, then into wringing. If the area is inflamed, you can ice the area with a Dixie cup, which numbs the area allowing you to go deeper without hurting the dog (about 10 lbs of pressure). After deep pressure massage, it is important to use progressively less pressure to remove toxins from the body.

The area of the withers is the skeletal attachment for the rhomboids and trapezius muscles. These muscles are directly involved in the movement of the scapula. Repetitive movement of any gait can cause irritation of the muscle attachment on the withers.

During assessment stroking, if you find muscle tightness or inflammation, warm up the muscle, then use gentle muscle squeezing to assess the inflammation or irritation. Thoroughly drain with plenty of effleurage, knead to loosen muscle fibers and use effleurage again to drain. Apply gentle friction across the length of the fibers starting with moderate pressure and work progressively deeper for about 2 minutes to prevent the formation of stress points. Use effleurage strokes about every 20 seconds to drain the area as you work. Do not overwork the fibers. Finish with light stroking.

Stretches that are beneficial for the rhomboids is the neck extension stretch and the foreleg forward stretch. When stretching, the corresponding agonist muscle must also be stretched. Always stretch when the dog is warm. Stretching decreases motor nerve tension and the dog will relax physically and mentally. It also gives the massage therapist feedback on muscles and ligaments regarding elasticity and tone.


  1. Canine Massage, 2nd Edition, A Complete Reference Manual – Jean Pierre Hourdebraigt, LMT
  2. Dog Anatomy – Robert Kainer, DVM, MS, Thomas O McCracken, MS
  3. Wikivet – Forelimb Anatomy and Physiology
  4. Planetmath.org

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