Pectoralis Minor Pain
The pectoralis minor (pec minor) is a small thick muscle located in the chest.
Trigger points (TrPs) in the muscle can cause pain in the chest, shoulder, arm, and hand. They can also contribute to pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades as well as a band of pain just under the shoulder blades.
A strain in the pec minor will cause pain in the muscle with an exceptionally painful spot where the strain occurred.
Where Is The Pectoralis Minor Muscle?
The pectoralis minor muscle is located toward the outside of the chest. It attaches the 3rd, 4th and 5th ribs to the front of the shoulder blade (the coracoid process of the scapula).
What Movements Does The Muscle Control?
The pectoralis minor pulls the shoulder and shoulder blade down and aids with inspiration by lifting the upper ribs so you inhale.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Pectoralis Minor Trigger Points?
Pain in the chest, the front of the shoulder, and the upper back are the most common symptoms of pectoralis minor trigger points.
If the TrPs have caused the muscle to become tight and short you may experience pain, tingling, and numbing down the inside of the arm to the hand and fingers.
The signs and symptoms are:
- Pain in the front of the shoulder and chest. The pain is an aching pain that can become sharp and stabbing with certain movements of the shoulder and arm.
- Trigger points can cause the muscle to become tight putting pressure on the blood vessels and nerves that run under the muscle. This will cause tingling and numbness on the inside of the upper arm, elbow, and inside of the forearm that often descends into the hand including the ring finger, little finger and occasionally the middle finger.
- Rounded shoulder posture is a common sign of a shortened pectoralis minor muscle. The muscle tightens and becomes short pulling the shoulders forward.
- Pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades is often experienced due to the pec minor pulling the shoulders forward causing the upper back muscles to remain in an extended stretch. A band of pain just under the shoulder blades is also common.
- Lifting your arm overhead or trying to reach behind your body may be difficult and/or cause pain
- Coughing, sneezing, and taking deep breaths can be painful.
Trigger points are small knots found in the muscle that when pressed increase pain in the area or send referred pain to another area of the body. To learn more about trigger points read Muscle Trigger Points and How They Contribute To Muscle and Joint Pain.
What Causes Trigger Points To Develop In The Pectoralis Minor Muscle?
- Working with your arms out in front of the body. Using computers/laptops can put enormous strain on the pec minor if the arms are not properly supported. Sitting in a chair and reaching to use the keyboard rolls the shoulders forward and shortens the pec minor putting pressure on blood vessels and nerves that run under the muscle.
- Jobs or hobbies that require holding the arms up and overhead for extended periods of time
- Lifting heavy objects using your shoulders and arms without engaging the leg muscles to lift will strain the muscle. Picking up items with your arms straight out in front of the body is another muscle stressor.
- Exercises like push-ups and planks that require your arms and shoulders to lift and hold your body up. Start slowly and build up the number of reps and time the position is held.
- Carrying a heavy purse, or backpack can put pressure on the muscle cutting off circulation causing carpal tunnel or thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms of aching, numbness, and tingling in the shoulder, arm and hand.
- Women with large breasts often experience shortened pectoralis minor muscles as well as the upper back pain caused by the shortened muscle and trigger points in the muscle.
- Pneumonia, emphysema, COPD, allergies, and other conditions that cause sneezing and coughing can cause the pectoralis minor muscle to become sore and develop trigger points.
- People who take short shallow breaths, known as chest breathing, stress the pectoralis minor.
- Whiplash will often cause trigger points to develop in the muscle.
How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Pectoralis Minor
- Pay attention to your posture! The importance of posture cannot be ignored. Keeping the shoulders pulled back and keeping the head lifted and straight prevents a lot of muscle pain and accompanying symptoms.
- If you work at a desk get an ergonomic chair with adjustable arms. Take the time to set the chair to your needs. Make sure that your arms are supported at the elbows and sit close enough to the desk so you are not reaching for the keyboard.
- If you must work with your arms overhead take frequent breaks, lower your arms and do a few upper body stretches.
- Do not pick up items with your arms stretched out in front of the body. When lifting heavy objects, use your legs and keep your arms tucked into the body so you don't stress or injure the pectoralis minor.
- If you carry a heavy backpack or purse consider using a Rolling Backpack or a Crossbody purse to relieve pressure on the shoulder and pec minor.
- During exercise don't try to push through muscle fatigue. Stop and give it a rest.
- Shallow or chest breathing overworks muscles in the neck, chest and upper back. Practice deep breathing until it becomes a habit.
If you have rounded shoulder or forward head posture correcting your posture will reduce your neck, back, and shoulder pain. I recommend the HailiCare Posture Corrector. The corrector fully supports the back and abdominal area while gently pulling your shoulder back which helps you retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. You will notice immediately a reduction of pain and tension. Start slowly, wearing the brace only 20-30 minutes a day slowly increasing the time you wear it. It is uncomfortable at first, but stay with it as it does get better!
Pectoralis Minor Trigger Point Treatment
Pec minor trigger points are fairly easy to treat. If you are unsure how to approach treatment many physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors trained in trigger point therapy that can show you how to find and how to treat them.
Another option is self-treatment. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent resource to learn self-treatment. The book explains trigger points and includes diagrams showing where the trigger points are located as well as how to treat each area. With a little time and patience, you can learn how to locate and treat trigger points throughout your body.
The best resource to learn how to treat small painful knots is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The authors explain trigger points and their effects in everyday language, not medical speak. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to treat their own muscle pain.
Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice to relieve pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)
How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?
Pec minor trigger points can be stubborn and take time to resolve. However, most people have a reduction of pain after just few treatments.
TrPs that have developed fairly recently usually deactivate after several treatments. If they have been in the muscle for months or years treatment and recovery time will take longer. For trigger point therapy to be successful, you must be consistent in your treatments. Pressure should be applied to the TrP several times a day for 1-2 minutes per treatment until it is gone.
Interesting facts about the pec minor:
- The pectoralis muscles can cause pain that mimics heart attack symptoms. If you are concerned about the symptoms, be safe and get medical attention.
- The pec minor is a major contributor to rounded shoulder posture. When the pectoralis minor muscle tightens and shortens, it pulls the shoulders forward which causes hunched upper body posture and upper back pain.
- The pectoralis minor along with the scalenes, are known as neurovascular entrappers. Tight shortened pec minor and scalene muscles can put pressure on the axillary artery as well as nerves in the neck / shoulder area restricting circulation to the arm and causing symptoms such as numbness and tingling.
- Pectoralis minor pain patterns closely mimic the pectoralis major pain patterns. Pectoralis minor pain tends to be more intense in the front of the shoulder than pec major pain.
Pectoralis minor muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Supraspinatus tendonitis
- Adhesive capsulitis (Frozen shoulder)
- Shoulder pointer
- Neurovascular entrapment
- Subdeltoid bursitis
- Bicipital tendonitis
- Medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow)
- Shoulder pointer
- Glenohumeral joint separation
- Gallbladder dysfunction
- Heart disease
Other muscles that should be considered and examined:
Rotator Cuff Muscles:
Associated satellite trigger points
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 minor it is likely you will find trigger points in some or all of these muscles.
- Pectoralis Major
- Anterior Deltoid
- Sternalis Muscle
Relax While Easing Your Pain and Stiffness
The Snailax Vibrating Massage Mat With Heat is made for those times. The mat features a full-body vibrating massage and has multiple settings for massage and heat. The remote allows you to adjust settings with a push of a button. Use this to relax muscles in the back, hips and upper legs.
Similar pain pattern in the chest, down the inside of the arm, into the hand and fingers.
Differences: Pain around the shoulder blade, pain is more intense around the elbow, wrist, and hand. No pain in the shoulder.
Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.