One of the most common gym injuries is Pectoral Muscle Strain. This is our topic of discussion today. Hope this helps.

What is Chest Muscle Strain?

Chest muscle strain is a condition in which there is a partial or complete tear or rupture of the muscles of the chest. There are 2 muscles of the chest region, the Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor. The function of these 2 muscles, is to assist with shoulder movement like pushing objects or taking the arm across the chest. When these activities are performed repetitively, there may be cases where either of these 2 muscles of the chest may get torn or strained resulting in a Chest Muscle Strain. These tears or strains can be classified as a grade 1 to 111 and may cause loss of function of the arm depending on the grade and severity of the injury or tear.

Grade 1 Strain of Chest Muscle
In this type, just a few muscle fibres of the chest muscles get damaged with some mild discomfort, but the function of the arm is not lost.

Grade 11 Strain of Chest Muscle
In this type quite a few muscle fibres are damaged and there may be more significant pain than in grade 1 strains and there may be partial loss of function of the arm.

Grade 111 Strain of Chest Muscle
In this type of tear, almost all muscle fibres are damaged and there is significant pain with almost complete loss of function of the arm.

What Causes Chest Muscle Strain?
One of the major causes of chest muscle strain is a sudden force through the muscle which is much more than the muscle can withstand resulting in tearing of the muscles. This is usually with activities like repetitive heavy weightlifting, like performing Bench Press. At times, repetitive movement of the arms across the chest during activities while at work or at home may lead to a strain of the chest muscles.

What are Risk Factors for Chest Muscle Strain?
1) Abnormal biomechanics when doing exercise,
2) Persistent upper back and shoulder stiffness,
3) Muscle imbalance,
4) Muscle weakness,
5) Muscle tightness, and
6) Poor posture.

What are the Symptoms of Chest Muscle Strain
The major symptom experienced by a patient is a shearing chest pain in front of the chest, or front part of the shoulder, when doing activities using the shoulders or while exercising. In grade 1 strain of chest muscle, the patient may be able to continue with activities but with mild discomfort. This pain will be localised to the chest area and will not radiate anywhere else in the body, except in rare cases where it may radiate to the neck area. The pain normally increases with activity. Patients with chest muscle strain will also experience pain when touching theĀ areas of affected muscles. In some cases, there may also be muscle spasms or weakness.

How is Chest Muscle Strain Treated
The best way to treat a chest muscle strain is by treating it cautiously. Some methods of treating are,
1) Apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes, 3 times a day, for 3 days post injury,
2) Avoid activities that may make the chest pain worse,
3) Only in rare cases, where there is complete rupture of the chest muscle, is surgery required,
4) Medications, as prescribed, can be taken to control pain and inflammation,
5) Once pain is under control and the inflammation has been taken care of, then the patient may start rehab exercises and may gradually start to return to normal activities.

Some of the ways that rehab will be useful are,
1) Soft tissue massages from your friendly therapist,
2) Ultrasound,
3) Joint mobilization,
4) Joint manipulation,
5) Using a sling for immobilisation for allowing time for the muscle to heal, and
6) Posture correction.

Useful rehab exercises at first are;

Stretching exercises, to increase flexibility in the muscle, holding your stretches for 10 seconds and working up to 30 seconds, then, light resistance exercises such as pushing your fist into your hand for 5 seconds for 10 reps. The Plank on all fours is good for stregthing the muscle. Also shoulder internal rotation with a band is good for strength.

Once you’ve increased you flexibility and strength, you can start more strenuous strength work, such as bench presses and the pectoral machine. If there are no machines, you can do pushups.

Considerations and Preventions
Always warm up for at least 5 minutes before doing your stretches or strengthening exercises, because working your muscles while they are cold can result in injuries.

You should never feel any pain while exercising. Even after you’ve fully recovered, maintain a regular stretch and strengthening routine to prevent further chest muscle strain. For optimal results and injury prevention, you could consider hiring a personal trainer to teach you proper exercise form.

If you are suffering from a nagging injury, or need some advice or treatment, feel feel to contact me at the Future Bodies gym in Okehampton

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