Muscle in review: Pectoralis Major

I’ve decided to do a series of reviews on some of the major and minor muscles in the body. Some of them might be obvious to you, in where they are and what they do but some may get forgotten about and neglected. Hopefully you’ll learn something new about your body and how to look after it.

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Pectoralis Major

Pectoralis Major

More commonly known as one of the ‘pecs’, pectoralis major is the largest muscle in the rotator cuff group, at the front of the chest. Generally speaking it attaches from the sternum and collar bone, to the top of the humerous.

It’s main job is to help raise and lower your upper arm, it also helps rotate the head of the shoulder. A common pectoralis major exercise is the chest press or push ups.

Chest press

 

 

When there are trigger points in the pectoralis major, pain and tension will occur in the local chest area and may refer down the inside of the arm into the inside of the forearm and hand.

Trigger points

 

The main symptoms may feel like pain in the front of the chest, front of the shoulder, hypersensitive nipples or breast pain, pain inside the elbow; rapid/fluttery/irregular  heartbeat/heart attack-like pain*, wrist & palm pain; other symptoms may include pain in the back of the fingers or inside of the arm.

Tension in the pectoralis major can also cause obstruction to the bracial plexus, the major network of nerve controlling the functions of the arm. When obstruction of this nerve occurs, patients may experience numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower extremities of the arm, especially in or starting from the thumb.

Brachial plexus

When treating pectoralis I generally use manual techniques, such as myofascial release through compression or slow deep tissue massage from the sternum, below the clavical and into the attachment below biceps at the top of the arm. Pausing to compress at any active trigger points until they release.

If you are doing stretches to look after your neck and shoulders, don’t forget to also stretch your pectorials. The most convenient way to stretch them is to lean into a doorway, holding either door jam (or one side at a time).

Pectoralis major stretch

Or on a foam roller/rolled up towel;

Foam roller stretch

Lying vertically on a foam roller with your buttocks and head supported, bring your arms to 90 degrees with your hands facing the ceiling. Gently rest your arms on the ground and hold the stretch for at least 60 seconds.

 

 

If the stretch is too much, place towels or pillows under your hands so that the stretch is more comfortable.

*Please ensure if you ever feel chest pain or heart attack symptoms to immediately seek emergency medical care

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