Pectoralis Major Strain
The pectoralis muscle (commonly referred to as the 'pecs') is a large, powerful muscle in the front of the chest wall. It's divided into two parts: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the bigger part of the muscle and is the one that is typically injured.
There are two heads of the pectoralis major; the clavicular (where it attaches to the collar bone) and the sterno-costal (where it attaches to the collar bone head and the sternum (breast bone) and ribs. The pectoralis muscle then stretches across the chest and rib bones where it is attached to the humerus by the pectoralis major tendon. Your pectoralis muscles allow you to rotate your arms inwards, pull your arms horizontally across the body, and push your arms outwards in front of your body.
There are 3 areas that a pectoralis strain can occur:
- a tendon strain at the attachment to the bone, at the humeral head.
- a strain between the tendon and muscle itself, known as a musculotendinous junction strain.
- a strain within the pectoral muscle itself.
The strain or injury may be caused by a sharp blow to the upper body or by repetitive movement that puts heavy weight on it, such as a bench press. Although this injury is rare, it can affect the movement of the shoulder, arm and chest.
Grades of Pectoralis Major Strain
Like any muscle strain, a pectoralis major strain is classified by the level of damage done to the muscle or tendon. Damage can vary from a small discomfort with over stretching the muscle to a full rupture. The level of tearing will help you understand your treatment options.
Grade I - Mild Strain
Grade I tears are called strains. A strain feels more like discomfort within the pectoral muscle rather than acute pain because it is typically a stretch of the muscle and/or tendon. Tiny tears may occur, however, there is no obvious area that is torn. If the pectoralis muscle is not rested properly, pain and inflammation will become worse. Quick treatment of a strain with a Freezie Wrap® cold compression wrap and an Inferno Wrap® will prevent further injury and chronic problems from developing.
Grade II - Moderate Strain
A Grade II injury is an actual tear in the muscle or tendon. It would feel like a sharp pain within the pectoral muscle or tendon, perhaps even accompanied by a tearing sound. A grade 2 strain occurs when a tendon or muscle is partially torn but still intact, leaving the pec area noticeably weaker.
Grade III - Rupture
A Grade III tear is a complete tear in the tendon either at the attachment to the muscle or to the bone. A tendon rupture causes a very sharp pain within the pectoralis major muscle or tendon at the time of the injury. There may even a popping or tearing sound. Treatment of a complete pectoralis major tendon tear usually requires surgery to rejoin the tendon back to the muscle or bone where it has become severed.
Symptoms of Pectoralis Major Strain
Grade I Symptoms
- Discomfort or pain in the chest area or upper arm/armpit area.
- Discomfort when you bring your arm towards your body, or when you try and rotate your arm inwards.
- Discomfort or weakness when pressing the arms out in front of the body.
- Mild swelling over the front of the shoulder or arm, or above the armpit.
Grade II Symptoms
- Pain in the chest area or upper arm/armpit area.
- Pain when you bring your arm towards your body, or when you try and rotate your arm inwards.
- Noticeable weakness when pressing the arms out in front of the body.
- Swelling over the front of the shoulder or arm, or above the armpit area.
Grade III Symptoms
- A sudden sharp pain at the front of the arm or shoulder.
- Acute pain and swelling in the front of the shoulder and upper arm.
- A sound or sensation of tearing or popping when the injury takes place.
- Bruising that shows up days after the injury.
- A visible lump and gap in the pectoral muscle.
- Pronounced weakness when trying to press the arms out in front of the body.
Causes of a Pectoralis Major Tear
50% of pec injuries happen when overloading the muscle while bench pressing. Since males between 20 and 50 years of age do strengthening exercises such as these most often, they experience pectoralis major tears the most. The use of steroids is known to cause weakness in the pectoralis major which makes it more prone to a tear.
Pectoralis Major Treatments - What You Can Do!
If you have a pectoralis major strain, resting it is recommended. Avoid activities that cause pain or may have caused the injury and begin cold compression treatments as soon as possible.
There are healing tools that can help treat your pectoralis major tendon/muscle strain and speed up the healing process so you can get back to a life without pain and risk of further injury. Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy (BFST®) will promote blood flow to heal your injury faster and more completely than any other methods available.
Although steroid injections may provide temporary relief from the pain of pectoralis major strain they should generally be avoided as they weaken the tissue and may lead to a complete tear. If you do opt for an injection, doctors usually recommend that you do not participate in strenuous activities for several weeks to reduce the risk of a rupture.
Freezie Wrap® Cold Compression Therapy
To decrease inflammation and relieve the pain of a pectoralis major strain doctor's recommend cold compression therapy. For an acute strain, cold compression therapy within the first 48 - 72 hours and after any restrain is important to limit the amount of damage done to your tissue. Cold compression therapy will relieve pain and swelling as needed and will reduce, or even eliminate, the need for NSAIDs.
The Back/Hip Freezie Wrap® is the cold compression tool you need to treat your pectoralis major strain in an effective and convenient way. It is so versatile it can be worn anywhere over your chest, back, or hip for treatment where you need it.
Cold Compression Therapy works by interrupting and slowing nerve and cell function in the injured area and reducing swelling that can block blood vessels. This is important because once blood vessels are blocked or damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood through your muscle and tissue cells begin to break-down. Without cold compression therapy cellular break-down and tissue damage continues as the cells do not get the oxygen they need to survive. By limiting the amount of damage done to your tissue, you also limit the amount of healing that needs to occur. This is a very important step to heal your pec muscle strain faster and with less pain!
The deep cooling effect provided by the Freezie Wrap® slows cell metabolism thereby reducing cellular break-down and tissue damage. Furthermore, because the cold wraps gently numb the nerves, the wraps also reduce pain!
The Freezie Wrap® uses a supercharged cooling gel pack, that chills in the fridge, not in the freezer like ice or other freezer packs, giving you deep cold therapy without the risk of 'cold burns' or cryoburn. The medical-grade wrap keeps the cold directly off your skin preventing cryoburn while delivering cold right where you need it.
Click here to learn more about Cold Compression Freezie Wraps®
Once the inflammation of your pectoralis major injury has been reduced, nourishing and strengthening the muscle tissue and surrounding area is recommended. Using Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy will speed your recovery and heal your pectoralis major more completely preparing it for strengthening exercises. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out which exercises are appropriate for your situation.
Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy
After severe inflammation and swelling is reduced you can begin to treat your pectoralis major tendon and muscle with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy (BFST®). BFST® increases the amount of blood that flows naturally to your pectoralis major to nourish your soft tissue to speed healing.
The pectoralis major naturally receives a limited blood supply and when you stop moving your arm and shoulder, because it hurts your pectoralis major muscle, the blood flow is reduced even further, limiting your body's natural ability to heal itself.
By treating your pectoralis major with BFST® you can increase your body's blood supply to the pec muscle and increase your body's natural healing power.
The Inferno Wrap® is the tool you need to treat your sore pectoralis major muscle because it speeds healing and relaxes the surrounding muscles. With BFST®, tissues are safely and gently stimulated. Your body responds with a rapid increase in blood flow to the area, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to injured tissue cells to promote healing. Our Inferno Wrap® provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief and healing with no side effects.
In addition, the improved blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from your pectoralis major strain. When you stop moving your arm and shoulder due to pain, your muscles and other tissue can become weaker and dead cells and toxins in the area can cause further tissue deterioration - this can lead to atrophy. By clearing the area of toxins and increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients to your muscle and other tissue, the risk of atrophy (muscle weakness and/or deterioration) is greatly reduced. Keeping your pectoralis major tissue as healthy as possible throughout the healing process will allow you to improve pec muscle strength again once your pain has gone and your strain has healed.
Click here to learn more about how BFST® and Inferno Wraps® work.
With these simple and safe home treatment therapies - Freezie Wrap® cold compression therapy and BFST® therapy, you will notice significantly reduced pain and an incredible improvement in your pectoralis range of motion.
During your recovery, you may have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your pectoralis major area until your pain and inflammation settle, and you gain more mobility and strength in your pectoralis major muscle. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
If the pectoralis major tendon is ruptured, it must be physically re-attached. The surgeon will make an incision; move the deltoids aside and place large sutures in the torn tendon. These sutures are then secured to the arm bone with either holes in the bone or anchors inserted in the bone.
Recovery time for the surgery will depend a number of different factors including your healing ability, diet, rest and how many procedures were done in your surgery. Your doctor will advise you on your recovery, and will let you know if/when physical therapy can be started.