Christina and I are the creators of the Ultimate Foam Roller Blueprint. We teach purposeful foam rolling and self care skills so you can be active and pain free, and do what you love to do. So we’re not medical doctors. This is for educational purposes only and we’re giving you 15 years of experience as Neuromuscular Massage Therapists. And this is information that we’ve shared with many of our clients and we wanted to share it with you .
Today we are talking about a little known muscle, Pectoralis minor. It is one that play a role in our posture. When it gets too tight it can restricts the movement of our shoulder blade. This muscle can develop hyper-irritated areas that can cause referral pain that can cause tingling, numbing and pain in the arms and the hands.
Over the last 15 years, we have had clients come to our office with these issues. Most had never hear of the Pectoralis minor muscle. This is a fairly unknown muscle! Most had heard of the chest muscle called pectoralis major, which is one of the largest muscles in the body. Even though most people have never heard of Pectoralis minor, it can be the cause some some pretty serious pain, tingling and numbness. So let’s talk about where this muscle is.
First of all we want you to find this muscle on yourself. This muscle is located on both side of our chest. Fairly close to the clavicle and the armpit. Place your right hand on your chest just like you do when you say the Pledge of Allegiance. Your hand should be on the upper part of your chest. Your fingers are roughly laying over the top of Pectoralis minor. It actually attaches to the third, fourth and fifth ribs., and then come up and attaches right in a little depression in the chest. Roughly where your pointer finger would be. If you push in “gently” with your pointer finger you should feel some tenderness. This is where the upper part of the muscle attaches at. Where its attaching at is actually part of your shoulder blade. Which is why this muscle can have such a big impact on the movement of your shoulder blade. Remember the same muscle is on your right side.
Now what’s interesting here is that it’s very common for most people. To be very tender here. Mainly because the Pectoralis minor muscle is typically tight in most people, and plus there are other muscle attaching here that are typically tight. So don’t be to concern if you find tenderness here. Just know you have some tight muscles that need some work. Now what does this muscle do?
This muscle helps pull the shoulder blade down and helps pull the shoulder blades forward around to the front. It will also help assist in raising the rib cage up when you breath in.
What happens when this muscle is tight:
When this muscle is tight, it can really pull that shoulder blade and forward and downward. It is part of what can cause winged shoulder blades. Wing shoulder blades are just what they sound like. It’s when the shoulder blade sticks out in the back. It can make some one look like they have wings. And since it is connected to the shoulder blade it can create restriction in the movement of your arm because the shoulder blade being held down and pulled out. So you can maybe have difficulty raising your arm forward or raising your arm backwards.
Another issue this muscle can have when it is tight is that it can entrap (place pressure on) a group of nerves that run through this area on their way to the arms. Finally since this muscle connects to the ribs it can have an impact on our breathing.
So we have covered where this muscle is located, what is does , and some of the problems it can cause if it gets tight. We want to go into more detail about the pain and symptoms this muscle can cause because they can be fairly serious.
More serious symptoms:
One of the more serious issue this muscle can create is the entrapment of a group of nerves that run right under it. This group of nerves are traveling from the neck to the arm, and travel right under Pectoralis minor. So when this muscle gets tight, and on most of us it is, it can press down on those nerves causing pain, tingling, and numbness down the arm and into the fingers.
These symptom can mimic an issue called thoracic outlet syndrome, which can have long term complications. Although part of the protocol for treating thoracic outlet syndrome should include loosening several muscles in the area including pectorals minor.
Another very serious symptom of this muscle being tight is that it can produce the same symptoms (radiating pain down the arm) as a heart attack. The pain radiating downtime arm can occur in both arms, but it is the left arm that generally causes the most concern. Now it is very important that if you are having symptoms that are associated with a heart attack seek out medical attention. It is only after you have a clean bill of health and you are still experiencing these symptoms that you may want to have this muscle worked on. Over the years we have had clients who have very healthy hearts and yet had pain that fires down the arm.
Trigger points are hyper irritated points in a tight muscle. And when they get tight enough and get angry enough and irritated enough., they are called trigger points. And they fire off pain to other parts of the body. These are called pain patterns or referral patterns. So this particular muscle even though it’s a fairly small has 2 trigger points. They are right on the top portion of the muscle, basically in a straight line,
Referral Pain Patterns:
These trigger points can send pain into the entire chest area, the front of the upper arm or the front deltoid, and down the inside of the arm from the upper arm, the forearm, inside of the hand, ad the last three fingers.
So you can see if this was occurring in the left side of the body one might think they were having a heart attack.
How do I know if I’m tight:
So people say, well, how do I know if I’m tight? We talked about that in the last video. If you can’t raise your arm up, or backwards, if your shoulder wing out, unexplained tightness in the chest, or if you’re having some of these symptoms. It’s a good bet that this muscle is tight.
Self Care: Foam Rolling
Since Pectoralis minor is underneath Pectoralis Major. You will have to roll this area with a foam ball to get deep enough to work it. It’s probably going to be tender. It is deep so if it is very tight and you are dealing with some of these symptoms it might be best to have a therapist who’s trained to work this area. Then you can maintain it with self care.
Stretching is always fantastic. It is a great way to re educate a muscle to its new, better range of motion. So stretching this muscle works best against a wall or a door. We want to start with our hands up high and we’re in the corner and we stretch. Follow that with bringing your arms down to around shoulder height. And then follow that with little bit lower and stretch. This will help get the whole length of the muscle and stretch Pectoralis major at the same time.
Okay. We hope this was helpful.
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