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Pectoralis Major Muscle: Chest, Shoulder, Upper Back, Arm, Hand Pain

The pectoralis major (pec major) are the large muscles that cover each side of the chest.

Pectoralis major trigger points (TrPs) contribute to pain in the chest. Because TrPs shorten the muscle and pull the shoulders forward, you will often experience pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades and a band of pain just under the shoulder blades.

A shortened pec major can also press on blood vessels and nerves, which will cause pain, tingling, and numbing in the inside of the arm that often descends into the hand.

Contents of Article

    Where is the pectoralis major muscle?

    Pectoralis Major Muscle

    The pectoralis major covers each side of the upper chest. The muscle has two heads that attach to different areas:

    • The clavicular head attaches to the collar bone.
    • The sternal head attaches to the sternum, the cartilages of the upper 6 ribs, and a sheath of connective tissue (aponeurosis) of the external oblique muscle.

    The two heads then come together to connect the upper arm (bicipital groove of the humerus).

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Lowers the arm back toward the body when the arm is extended to the side
    • Moves the arm in toward the body
    • Moves arm in and across the front of the body

    The Pectoralis Major Anatomy page lists origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information. Muscle actions are listed along with agonists and antagonists for each muscle movement.


    Pectoralis Major Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Pectoralis Major Referred Pain Pattern

    Pain in the chest, pain in the front of the shoulder, and pain in the upper back are the most common symptoms of trigger points in the pectoralis major.
    Trigger points can also contribute to pain, tingling, numbness going down the inside of the arm and into the pinky and ring fingers.
    The symptoms:

    • Chest pain
    • Pain in the front of the shoulder
    • Pain in the inner arm, inner elbow traveling down to the into the middle and ring fingers
    • Breast pain and tenderness
    • Upper back pain between and under the shoulder blades
    • Pain in the shoulder and chest when trying to reach behind the body
    • Rounded shoulder posture
    • Contributor to forward head posture

    Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)

    Medical professionals and trainers recommend Biofreeze Professional Gel for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain. 

    What Causes Pectoralis Major Trigger Points To Develop?

    • Slouching posture
    • Lifting heavy objects using your shoulders, arms, and upper back muscles can stress the pec major and other muscles in the neck, shoulder, arm, and back.
    • Working with your arms out in front of you while using a computer, driving, horseback riding.
    • Working or doing projects that require keeping your arms up over your head, for example, painting high walls or ceilings.
    • Exercises like push-ups and planks requiring your arms and shoulders to lift your body weight. Gymnasts often experience problems with the pec muscles.
    • Keeping your shoulders rolled forward or pulled up.
    • Carrying a heavy purse or backpack on one shoulder
    • Large breasts- the breast weight often pull the shoulder and chest muscles forward that shortens the muscles, and can cause TrPs.

    TWD Recommends

    If you have rounded shoulder, forward head posture, or a habit of slouching, correcting your posture will reduce muscle pain. The Truweo Posture Corrector is adjustable and comfortable. It gently pulls your shoulders back, which helps retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. Many people notice an immediate reduction of pain and tension. Start slowly, wearing the brace for short periods throughout the day, gradually increasing the time-worn.

    How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Pectoralis Major:

    • Standing up straight, sitting upright, keeping the shoulders back, and your head lifted will help many muscles, including the pecs, to fend off TrP development.
    • If you work at a desk, an ergonomic chair with adjustable arms is your friend. Take the time to adjust the chair to your specific needs. Make sure your arms are well supported, and you are not reaching to use the desktop or keyboard.
    • Take frequent breaks if you are doing activities that require you to have your arms overhead for extended periods. Move around and do some upper body stretches to counteract the strain.
    • Use proper form when lifting objects. Squat down, don’t bend over and keep your upper arms close to the body.
    • Consider a Rolling Backpack or a Crossbody purse to relieve pressure on the shoulder and pectoralis muscles.
    • When you feel muscle fatigue while exercising, it is time to take a break or stop. Trying to push through often causes overuse syndrome and injuries, which contribute to trigger point development.

    TWD Recommends

    The Cureve Hot Cold Pack can be used for warm and cold treatments. It is recommended that you use cold packs for injuries, swelling, and after a TrP treatment. Use a warm treatment when the muscle is tight and needs to relax.

    Pectoralis Major Trigger Point Treatment

    Trigger points in the pec major can be intimidating if you are not sure how to approach treatment. Many massage therapists, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and chiropractors have training in trigger point therapy. They can show you how to find and treat specific trigger points.

    You should also know that you can learn self-treatment. It takes a little time and practice, but it is not difficult to learn. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent resource to learn about self-treatment. The book explains trigger points and includes diagrams showing you where the trigger points are located and how to treat each area. It is a book I highly recommend to everyone who wants to learn about muscle pain and its effect on the body.

    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    Once you start treating the trigger points, you will usually feel some relief quickly. TrPs that have developed recently usually deactivate after several days of treatment. If they have been in the muscle for months or years, treatment and recovery time will take longer. It is important to be consistent in your treatments and continue treatment until the trigger points are deactivated (gone).

    Interesting facts:

    • The pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles can cause pain that mimics heart attack symptoms. If you are concerned about the symptoms, be safe, and get medical attention.
    • Poland’s syndrome, also known as Poland’s anomaly, is a rare congenital anomaly in which the pectoral muscles are underdeveloped or absent on one side of the body. The condition affects the arm and hand on one side of the body. French boxing silver and bronze Olympic medal winner Jerome Thomas does not have a pectoralis major muscle on the left side of his chest. His left arm is shorter than the right arm, and he has a small left hand. PGA golfer Bryce Molder also is affected by Poland’s syndrome on his left side. He is also missing the pectoral muscle on his left side and has a small left hand.
    • Pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor pain patterns are very similar.

    Pectoralis major muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Bicipital tendonitis
    • Costochondritis
    • Supraspinatus tendonitis
    • Subacromial Bursitis
    • Medial epicondylitis
    • Golfers Elbow
    • Lateral epicondylitis
    • Tennis Elbow
    • C5 C6 C7 C8 T1 Radiculopathy
    • Mastitis
    • Fibrocystic breast disease
    • Pleurisy
    • Ankylosing spondylosis
    • Esophagitis
    • Gastroenteritis
    • Hiatal hernia
    • Gallbladder dysfunction
    • Angina pectoris
    • Heart disease


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the pectoralis major muscle:

    A muscle trigger point often produces more trigger points in other muscles within the pain referral area. These are called satellite trigger points.

    If you find trigger points in the pectoralis major it is likely you will find trigger points in some of these muscles.

    • Latissimus dorsi
    • Teres major
    • Subscapularis
    • Serratus anterior
    • Coracobrachialis
    • Rhomboid Major
    • Rhomboid Minor
    • Trapezius
    • Infraspinatus
    • Teres minor
    • Deltoid


    TWD Recommends

    Doctors and physical therapists often recommend TENS to relax muscles and ease the pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended by professionals and an excellent choice for treating shoulder and arm pain.