Christina and I have had so many clients that have come to us frustrated, because they were dealing with a lot of pain, and stiffness in the shoulders and upper back. They were also struggling with maintaining good posture. This is a very common complaint and a common problem in our modern society. One of the most important muscle and one of the most over looked muscles causing this problem is the Pectoralis Major (Pecs or chest muscles).
Hold on a minute:
So if I am having tightness and pain in my shoulder and upper back how can muscle in the front of my body be causing it.
The Pectoralis Maj is one of the most powerful muscle in your body and if it is tight it is strong enough to over power the muscles of the upper back, putting you into very bad posture.
So if you can’t put arms behind back or reach up high with your arms. If you have roundness in your shoulders or (ladies) breast augmentation. Or if you are a big fan of bench presses and push ups then this will be a great article for you.
Where are they:
Now, I know most people know basic location of the Pectoralis Major (Pecs). Most people don’t know the exact attachment sites are. This is good to know because it helps explain why this muscle can cause so much trouble.
So, place your hand on the lower edge of your clavicle (collarbone), that’s the bone on the front side of your shoulder between the neck and the upper side of your arm. Run your hand across the clavicle toward the neck. About 1/3 of the way across you should feel a hard firm muscle that seems to drop downward toward the upper arm. This is the start of the Pecs. Now follow the clavicle until it end at the sternum ( The big bone in the center of your chest). Follow the outside edge of the sternum downward until about an inch from the bottom. You should feel the the pectorals Major muscle move away from the sternum and toward the ribs. Follow the muscle out onto the ribs about an inch or so. This is the full range of where tone side of this muscle attaches at. Now, the muscle runs out of these attachment sites coming together and attaching This is the largest attachment site for the pectorals muscle. AT the very bottom of the sternum you should feel where the sternum ends and the ribs continues. Follow the ribs down about an inch and a half. This is where the lower fiber of the pectorals major attach at. Now all the fibers of this muscle come together in an inch wide band that attaches into the outside edge of the center of the upper arm. This is the location of the pectorals muscle. It is a very large area and it is what give this muscle so much power and force.
What does this muscle do:
Now that we know where it is, it’s time to know what it does. The whole muscle works together to pull the arms inward toward the center of the body, it rotates the shoulder inward toward the center, and it may assist raising the ribs when the arms are fixed.
The upper fiber of Pectoralis Major pull the arms forward, and if the arms are raise horizontally will pull them toward the bodies center.
The lower fibers pull the arms backwards.
Why is this important:
When a muscle is tight it is going to pull in the direction that it typically moves. So if the Pectoralis Maj. is tight it will pull the arms and shoulders inward. This is called rounded shoulders and this muscle is a big player in this problem. This muscle if tight can put upward force on the ribs making you work harder for you to breath. and if tight it can make it hard to move the arms forward ad backward.
So why is this important? Because this powerful muscle can pull us out of good posture, make us work harder to breath, and reduce the range of motion of our arms.
The middle muscle fibers has five trigger points. Three of these trigger points which are closer to the arm can create pain throughout the whole chest area, down the inside of the arm forearm, into the palm and last 3 fingers. The other two trigger points located closer to the sternum can create pain in the center of the chest and edge of sternum.
The lower fibers (Ribs) can create pain into the chest especially the lower area and into the whole armpit area.
One of the strongest muscle of the body. This muscle does so much for us. Yet when it is tight it can create scary pain patterns, pain throughout the upper body, and can cause major postural and movement problem.
Pectoralis Major responds very well to self care such as foam rolling and therapeutic work. A great stretch for this muscle is to stand in a corner or in a doorway and place your hand on either the wall or door trim and lean forward placing a nice stretch in the Pectoralis Major. By moving your hand up and down you can stretch different sections of this muscle.
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