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July 12th, 2017

Muscle of the Month: Pec Major & Minor

by Kristin Stromberg, ATC

When people want to start exercising more, one of the first muscles they want to work on is their chest. Most people have heard of large muscle pectoralis major but seem to forget about pectoralis minor. Both need to work together in order to function at their highest capacity.

The pectoralis major muscle is a large muscle in the upper chest, fanning across the chest from the shoulder to the breastbone. The two pectoralis major muscles, commonly referred to as the “pecs,” are the muscles that create the bulk of the chest. The pectorals are predominantly used to control the movement of the arm and also play a part in deep inhalation, pulling the ribcage to create room for the lungs to expand. Six separate sets of muscle fibers are identified within the pectoralis major muscle. This enables each portion of the pectoralis major muscle to be moved separately by the nervous system.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, flat muscle found immediately underneath the pectoralis major. This is the smaller of the two pectoral muscles, or muscles of the chest. This muscle extends from three origins on the third, fourth, and fifth ribs on each side of the ribcage to the coracoid process (a small, hook-like structure) of the scapula, or shoulder blade.

The following events listed below can aggravate the Pec Major:

  • Unusual postures like head leaned forward for a long time, shoulders deliberately pushed forward, sunken-chest posture
  • Sitting in front of computer or working at a stretch on a desk may cause distorted postures
  • Sudden jerks during weight lifting with the arms out in front of the body
  • Already fatigued muscles if further used for heavy jobs may lead to simple to severe pain in the muscles.
  • Intensive anxiety over a long period of time or recurring panic attacks

The following events listed below can aggravate the Pec Minor:

  • Trauma to the chest caused by a car accident, such as whiplash
  • Major or minor fracture or strain of the upper ribs.
  • Use of crutches for a long time
  • Hyperventilation or heavy breathing
  • Mental stress for a long time
  • Carrying heavy backpack or similar things over a period of time.
  • Keeping the head forward for a long time, and sunken-chest posture that are common in people who work on computers for longer periods
  • Previous or irregular cardiac pain from a heart attack or angina pectoris

Here are some common symptoms for Pec Major and Pec Minor:

  • Pectoralis major pain may occur in the form of chest pain, shoulder pain particularly frontal part, and pain in the inside of arm to the elbow. This pain may sometimes be confused as cardiac pain which can be confirmed by medical experts
  • Impaired lymphatic drainage may cause the breast to enlarge
  • Pain may spread into the ring finger and little finger of the hand for pec major
  • A pain in between the shoulder blade may occur simultaneously
  • Pain may be felt while stretching the hands on two sides
  • Severe pain may cause a feeling of constriction in the chest which much resembles to that of angina pectoris
  • Pain may be irregular which is felt while actively using the upper arms
  • Pain may be one-sided initially, but if not treated may spread to the other side of the chest
  • A feeling of pain coming from the inside part of the elbow that is often confused with the pain of “golfer’s elbow” or medial epicondylitis may be a symptom of pec minor
  • Pain that is originating in the inside of the arm and extending up to the middle, ring and little finger may be a symptom of pec minor as well as numbness in the hand and forearm
  • Difficulty in stretching the arm forward and up may be painful

*If you think you are having chest pain and is not sure if it is muscle related or if you are having a heart attack please go to emergency room and/or check in with your medical doctor

If your symptoms are related more to pec major or pec minor here are some things to do.

  • Rest would be very important since these muscle do so much work
  • Icing the area a few times a day for 15-20 minutes at each session
  • Some sort of anti-inflammatory to control the inflammation
  • Treatment at our office would be with Low Level Light Therapy, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy for stretching and to start implementing an exercises routine. Massage therapy to try and relax the tight and aggravated muscles. As well as a posture program to make sure the correct muscles are working properly

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