Question:

I’ve been considering purchasing an indoor rowing machine for exercise. My usual exercise is cycling or swimming. I still cycle year-round outdoors or at home on a trainer but due to the pandemic, I am avoiding indoor public spaces so I will not be swimming now that the outdoor pools around here are closed.

As I was just about to order the rowing machine, I got a strain in my rhomboid. I’m not sure how it started… could have been golf, weights, or overdoing it in the pool, but I definitely aggravated it during a round of golf.

I have since learned that a strained rhomboid is not an uncommon injury caused by rowing. Intuitively, I would think that rowing at a lower intensity would be good for stretching and strengthening the back.

Would rowing be a good idea (once I’m fully healed, of course, and provided I target low intensity on the rower), or is it something I should avoid?

I am a 48 year old male. I try to stay active but I can’t imagine the incredible boredom of cycling on a trainer in my basement every single day through the winter! (I no longer run due to knee pain caused by running.)


Answer:

I’m sorry to hear about your recent injury. I am not able to make specific recommendations regarding your case without a thorough physical therapy evaluation. However, I can provide you with some general information that you may find helpful.

Rhomboid strains are rather uncommon as a golfing injury, and different tissue could be causing your pain. Pain in the region of your rhomboid muscle can come from a variety of sources, including your thoracic spine, a muscle in the area such as the rhomboids or the trapezius, from a rib, or your neck or shoulder can radiate into this region. Certainly golfing could lead to an injury in all of these areas mentioned above. The healing time and treatment approach for these injuries will vary depending on the type of tissue involved. A physical therapy evaluation would be helpful here in order to identify the location of your injury and to help you develop an appropriate plan for recovery and return to full activity. The rehab plan for the mentioned injuries may incorporate strengthening, posture corrections, and manual treatment with a physical therapist to improve movement through joints if needed. Again, the specific components of your treatment plan will vary depending on the structures involved, and the extent of your injury.

In general, rowing can be an excellent form of exercise for both improving your cardiovascular health and strengthening your core and back muscles. However, good form with rowing is essential in order to protect the neck and back parts of your spine, and shoulders from injury. Once your injury has healed, starting at a lower intensity with rowing and progressing once you have mastered good mechanics is generally a good progression. A physical therapist may be able to help you address your knee pain as well.

I hope you have found this response to be helpful.


**This reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.