Latissimus Dorsi Soft Tissue Work: Help Shoulder Pain

If you have shoulder pain you have probably been treating around the around. Traps, rhomboids, deltoids etc etc…one of the biggest culprits and often overlooked is a malfunctioning latissimus dorsi. This one I know from experience. After suffering from should pain for nearly two years (common for a volleyballer but not necessary) a friend of mine proceeded to stick his large thumbs into my lat dorsi. This breakthrough, although making me scream and nearly backhand him to the face, instantly referred pain up to my shoulder, and instantly I could feel relief. Naturally, I want to share this relief with you.

Here is a picture of the lat dorsi.

As you can see it is huge, attaches on various places… Vertebre, pelvis, ribs, scapula and humerus to be exact, which means that it can cause a whole lot more problems than just in the shoulder, but I digress. The movements it performs are extension of the humerus, adduction of the humerus in two planes, and perhaps most importantly internal rotation of the humerus.

Lat dorsi too tight or malfunctioning…means too much internal rotation, which means imbalances, which means many possible shoulder pathologies ouch as impingement. Not only that, the lats have a significant effect on the movement and stability of the scapula. I won’t go into too much detail here as I want to get to the good stuff, the soft tissue work, but the scapula plays an imperative role in shoulder function and stability. Without a nice functioning scap, you’re screwed. On top of all this, simple trigger points in the lat dorsi can refer pain to the front of the shoulder, so you want them out.

I will go into this large muscle more in the future and delve into why it can cause a whole lot of problems, and why a strong and well functioning lat dorsi can actually improve performance in many measures, but for now, we will move onto the soft tissue work, and how to save your shoulder from a lot of pain.

This video explains how to do self myofascial release on the foam roller for your latissimus dorsi. Be aware, and I am not joking, that if you have not done this before… it bloody hurts. It’s a large muscle that does a lot of work and is on most people generally very tight and full of trigger points.

This video shows you how to perform a release on the lats with a lacrosse ball. As you may have seen in my tennis ball series, a lacrosse ball isn’t always necessary. Anything that size is great to get the trigger points…but remember if you think the foam roller hurt, this will at the start be almost unbearable. Helps prevent and cure shoulder pain though, so toughen up.

Heres to a healthy shoulder 😉

Don’t forget to check out the Ultimate Self Massage Guide, it has a ton of great tips step by step instructions and pictures to show you exactly how to release all the Lat Dorsi even more effectively.


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  1. Marita says

    Great info thanks! I tried this right away and it worked really well on my shoulders. It definitely released something! I’ve just started on working on trigger points underneath the shoulder blade, but this move gets to even different areas. Instead of a small ball I’ve been using the backbuddy. It’s S shape and gets to points that are really hard to reach. I just ‘discovered’ that tool – thought you might like to know :)

  2. Marita says

    I’ve been reading other articles on your blog and you got me ‘rolling’ just about every body part now lol! BTW, I’m working on getting rid of symptoms of old injuries, things I’ve been dealing with for years. The trigger point exercises are amazing and I just can’t believe how well they work. I’m so glad I never gave in to all the ‘recommended’ surgeries. Thanks so much for all the info, it’s changing my life.

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