By Amanda Mazzocchi, NCTMB
Catalyst Sports and Injury Massage
If you’ve had a Therapeutic Massage, you’ve probably been very surprised by how tender your pectoralis (chest) muscles were. Everyone feels tired and achy across the upper back and shoulders, but no one really complains of pec pain. As with most soft tissue dysfunction, the lack of balance in musculature causes pain and dysfunction.
Living in the age of computers and cars, we are stuck for hours with our arms in front of us. The result? Shortened pecs. The shortened muscles on the front side of our torso cause all of the musculature on the back side to be elongated and strained. Basically, the muscles of our upper backs are trying to do their job—keep the shoulders back, and are failing miserably against the strain of the shortened, tight chest. No wonder our backs feels so tired.
So…a back rub feels great, but doesn’t it make sense to eliminate the cause of the strain, and lengthen the pecs?
Here is a great basic stretch for Pectoralis Major
(click images to view larger image)
All stretches should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides.
- Stand next to a wall, extending your arm along it.
- Rotate your body away.
You can also adjust the angle of your arm as shown to affect different fibers of the muscle as shown:
Pec minor, in particular, causes a myriad of pain syndromes including numb and tingling hands, a loss of grip strength, or even carpal tunnel-type symptoms. Because of its location, pectoralis minor lies right over the nerve plexus that feeds your arm and hand. When it is tight, it essentially clamps the nerve and interferes with its ability to perform properly. In addition, pec minor acts as a synergist to another muscle running from the shoulder up to the neck, and causes a downward rotation in the shoulder joint. Not only does this make your neck and shoulders feel more hunched and tense, it also rounds your shoulders and gives you poor posture. Massage is extremely effective at releasing this pressure, and the following stretch is also very helpful home care:
Stand in a doorway, lined up with the opening. Place your arm at shoulder height in the doorway at right angles as shown. Place one foot in front and one behind for stability. Keep your spine straight and rotate your body downward, “nose-dive” fashion. Note: don’t push through the doorway, rotate downward. You should feel a stretch in your pec area.
(If you have been suffering from numbness in your hand, you may even feel your hand going numb during this stretch. This is okay for the duration of the stretch, and you should feel a great release of pressure when you finish stretching.)