Home Pectoralis Minor Strain: Causes & Recovery

Pectoralis Minor Strain: Causes & Recovery

by Christine
10 minutes read
Pectoralis Minor Strain: Causes & Recovery
Disclaimer: For medical concerns, consult a healthcare professional; this content is for informational purposes only.

Imagine you’ve been working out intensively, pushing yourself to reach that next level of fitness, but suddenly you feel a stinging pain around your chest muscles. You brush it off as a temporary discomfort, but the pain lingers, often returning during your workouts. Is it just muscle fatigue or could it be something more serious like a pectoralis minor strain?

Whenever we feel muscle pain, it’s crucial to correctly identify its origin, as it’s the first step towards effective recovery. In the world of fitness, the pectoralis minor strain is a common injury, but it’s often misunderstood or overlooked due to its subtle symptoms.

That’s exactly where this article steps in. Not only will it help demystify what a pectoralis minor strain is but it will also shed light on its typical causes. Furthermore, we’ll guide you through the recovery process, stepping away from the technical medical terms, and translating them into straightforward, easy-to-understand language.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The pectoralis minor strain is often caused by overuse, abrupt movements, or improper warm-up before exercise, especially among athletes in demanding sports.
  2. The strain manifests as pain or discomfort in the shoulder, arm, or chest, often diagnosed through a physical examination, medical history, and possibly imaging tests.
  3. Recovery usually involves rest, pain management, physiotherapy, and in severe cases, surgery followed by rehabilitation to restore strength and mobility.

How Long Does it Take for a Pectoralis Minor Strain to Heal?

The healing time depends on the severity of the pectoralis minor strain. But generally, a mild strain may take anywhere from two weeks up to two months to heal completely. However, more severe strains could take several months or even longer.

Each person’s healing process is different and is influenced by various factors like the person’s overall health, age, diet, and adherence to the prescribed recovery plan. The key here is to provide your body with adequate rest and the right resources it needs to repair the strained tissue.

During the healing process, it’s essential not to rush back into intense physical activities even if you feel better. Doing so can potentially aggravate the injury and delay recovery. It’s recommended to gradually reintegrate physical activities, starting with mild exercises and gradually stepping up the intensity as your muscle regains its strength and flexibility. Your healthcare provider or physiotherapist can guide you on the appropriate return-to-exercise timeline.

Proper intervention, including physiotherapy, rest, and a guided return to activity, can play a significant role in speeding up the healing process and preventing future injuries.

What Does a Strained Pectoralis Minor Feel Like?

Picture this: You’re reaching for your favorite mug from a high shelf or swinging a tennis racket during an intense match, when suddenly, a sharp pain or discomfort shoots up the front of your shoulder. This discomfort is a common initial sign of a strained Pectoralis Minor. Feelings may range from a deep ache to a sensation of tightness, or, in some cases, a burning sensation spreading across your chest or shoulder.

This unease can escalate, especially when lifting your arm or when subjected to pressure. The critical role Pectoralis Minor plays in the actions and stabilization of our shoulder means any strain can drastically limit one’s range of motion. Routine activities may then become painful and challenging.

Symptoms of a Pectoralis Minor Strain

The symptoms of a Pectoralis Minor Strain can vary, impacting each individual differently. Here are some symptoms of a Pectoralis Minor Strain:

  • Sharp or aching pain in the front of the shoulder.
  • Discomfort or pain in the chest area.
  • Tightness or loss of mobility in the shoulder.
  • Noticeable decrease in muscle strength, or a restricted range of motion.
  • Swelling or tenderness in the affected area.
  • Pain increases when performing certain movements, such as pushing or lifting.

What is The Trigger Point For The Pectoralis Minor?

A trigger point refers to a spot that is particularly sensitive and can cause pain in other parts of the body when pressed or stressed.

For the pectoralis minor, these trigger points are usually concentrated in the muscle belly, which is located directly under the pectoralis major, near the third, fourth, and fifth ribs.

When tight or strained, the pectoralis minor can contribute to pain in the chest, shoulders, and even down the arm, often mimicking symptoms of more serious conditions like angina or heart attacks. Hence, identifying and addressing these trigger points through specific massage techniques or targeted therapy can significantly alleviate pain and aid in the muscle’s recovery process.

Pectoralis Minor Strain Test: Know if You Have a Strained Pectoral?

To correctly identify a pectoralis minor strain, several diagnostic tests can be beneficial. These tests will help confirm the presence of a strain and rule out other potential injuries to the shoulder and chest area.

Before proceeding with any self-administered test, you must remember that these checks serve as preliminary assessments and should never substitute a professional medical diagnosis. If you suspect a strain, consulting with a healthcare provider for a comprehensive examination is always advised.

A correct diagnosis is the first step toward recovery, guiding the appropriate treatment plan to address the injury effectively.

Self-Assessment Guide to Check for Pectoralis Minor Test

If you’re concerned about a possible pectoralis minor strain, conducting an initial self-assessment can provide insights. Remember, this should not be seen as a substitute for a consultation with a healthcare professional. Here’s how you can carry out a step-by-step self-assessment, with each step explained:

Step 1: Visual Inspection 

Start your assessment by standing in front of a mirror where both your chest and shoulders are clearly visible. This initial step allows you to compare both sides for any noticeable differences. Look specifically for signs of swelling, discoloration, or any asymmetry between the two sides that could indicate an issue.

Step 2: Palpation 

Next, while standing or seated in a comfortable position, use your fingers to gently press and explore the area around the pectoralis minor. This muscle is situated beneath the larger pectoralis major, closer to the upper portion of your chest by your shoulder. You’re searching for any tender spots, noticeable bumps, or areas that cause pain when slightly pressured.

Step 3: Range of Motion 

For the third step, you’ll need to assess your range of motion. Begin in a comfortable stance, either standing or seated, with your arms relaxed by your sides.

Gradually raise both arms straight up, aiming to fully extend them above your head without pain. Then, slowly extend your arms outward to the sides and across your body, noting any discomfort, pain, or limitation in movement, especially on the side you suspect may be strained.

Step 4: Functional Movements 

Introduce functional movements that engage the pectoralis minor to further your assessment. Actions such as pressing your palms together in front of you, mimicking the action of opening a door, or simulating a throwing motion can be telling. Pay attention to any pain, discomfort, or difficulty experienced during these movements.

Step 5: Strength Assessment 

Lastly, assess the strength in the area of concern. Position yourself, either standing or sitting, with one arm extended out in front of you at shoulder height, palm facing downwards. Attempt to resist as you gently press down on the extended arm with your other hand. This step helps compare strength and any discomfort invoked on both sides, highlighting potential issues with the pectoralis minor.

Pectoralis Minor Stretch Test

A popular method for assessing a possible pectoralis minor strain involves the pectoralis minor stretch test. To perform this test:

  1. Stand with your back against a wall, attempting to flatten your lower back against it.
  2. Extend your arms and elbows out to your sides, bending the elbows at a 90-degree angle with your palms facing forward.
  3. Slowly move your arms upwards, maintaining the bend in your elbows. If you experience any pain, tightness, or discomfort in your chest or shoulder area, it could indicate a strain in your pectoralis minor muscle.

This test helps in pinpointing areas of tightness and discomfort but should not replace a professional’s evaluation for a definitive diagnosis.

Horizontal Adduction Test

Another method to identify a pectoralis minor strain is the Horizontal Adduction Test. This test specifically targets potential discomfort caused by the strain. To perform this test:

  1. Extend one arm straight in front of you at shoulder height.
  2. Then, using your opposite hand, gently push the extended arm across your body towards the opposite shoulder.

If performing this motion induces pain or significant discomfort in the pectoralis minor region, it could suggest strain or tightness in the muscle. Just like the stretch test, while this can indicate potential issues, consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial for a comprehensive assessment.

Professional Diagnosis

To figure out if you have a pectoralis minor strain, a doctor or other healthcare worker will check your symptoms. They will do this by examining you and maybe using special equipment to take pictures of the inside of your body, like an MRI or ultrasound.

These tests help the doctor see what’s going on with your muscles and make sure it’s a strain, not something else. They also help to find out how severe the injury is. Knowing for sure if you have a pectoralis minor strain is important, as it will guide the doctor in making a plan to help you get better.

How do You Fix a Strained Pectoralis Minor?

Treating a strained pectoralis minor efficiently requires a combination of initial rest and careful rehabilitation exercises once the acute pain subsides.

Initially, applying ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes, several times a day, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. It’s also advisable to limit movements that exacerbate the discomfort. As the healing progresses, incorporating gentle stretching exercises can aid in restoring flexibility.

Eventually, strengthening exercises should be gradually introduced to rebuild muscle strength without causing further strain. Physical therapy plays a crucial role, offering guidance on specific exercises tailored to your recovery stage. Furthermore, in certain cases, therapeutic modalities like massage therapy and ultrasound treatments can be beneficial.

Always remember, recovery varies from person to person; following a plan customized by a healthcare professional is key to a successful rehabilitation.

Can a Pectoralis Strain Heal on its Own?

A mild pectoralis minor strain does have the potential to heal on its own with adequate rest and proper self-care measures during the initial phases post-injury. This means you should stay away from things that might make the strain worse, use cold packs to help with swelling, and give your body time to get better.

However, simply hoping your strain will heal by itself, without doing specific exercises to help, may cause long-term discomfort. It could also increase the risk of hurting yourself again or developing ongoing problems. That’s why it’s important to follow a recovery program made by a healthcare professional. This program might include exercises to help strengthen your muscle and make it flexible again, which are things you might miss out on if you’re only waiting to heal.

What Exercises to Avoid With a Pectoralis Strain?

Exercising is a vital part of maintaining overall health, but when dealing with a pectoralis strain, it’s crucial to know which activities to avoid. Let’s explore the movements and workouts you should stay away from during your recovery.


Dips are an intensive exercise that places significant stress across the shoulders and the chest, engaging the pectoralis muscles intensively. For someone with a pectoralis minor strain, the motion involved in dips, especially the downward phase, can significantly increase the risk of aggravating the injury.

The strain during dips may pull on the healing muscle fibers, leading to increased pain or, worse, extending the recovery time required for the muscle to heal fully. Hence, it is wise to exclude dips from your workout routine until the pectoralis minor has completely recovered.

High-Intensity Chest Workouts

These exercises, including explosive push-ups or cross-body punches, can exert excessive strain on an already compromised muscle, potentially leading to further damage.

High-intensity workouts often prioritize speed and power, which can inadvertently stretch or tear healing muscle fibers, delaying recovery.


Pull-overs aim to strengthen the lats and triceps but also substantially stretch the chest muscles, including the pectoralis minor. Engaging in pull-overs while dealing with a strain in this muscle can be counterproductive, as the exercise inherently stretches the chest area. This could lead to undue stress on the injured muscle fibers, interrupting the healing process.

Cable Crossovers

Cable crossovers are a targeted exercise for the chest, requiring the arms to be brought across the body under resistance. This movement heavily involves the pectoralis muscles, making it a potential risk for those recovering from a pectoralis minor strain.

The tension exerted by the cables combined with the motion can lead to pain and might cause further damage to the muscle.

T-Bar Rows

Primarily a back exercise, T-bar rows inadvertently involve the chest muscles to stabilize the body. The engagement of the pectoralis minor, especially under substantial weight, poses a risk for anyone with a strain in this muscle.

The combined pressure of stabilizing and the movement required by this exercise can further strain the pectoralis minor, hindering healing efforts. Hence, it is advisable to avoid T-bar rows until the muscle has adequately recovered and is capable of handling such stress without adverse effects.

Incline Press Movements

Incline press movements, whether performed with dumbbells, a barbell, or machines, focus on the upper chest and unavoidably engage the pectoralis minor.

The angle and stabilization needed for incline presses can place undue stress on a strained pectoralis minor. Injuries in this muscle need a careful approach to healing, and incline press movements can aggravate the condition due to the pressure they exert on the muscle.

How do You Rehab a Pulled Pectoralis Muscle?

Rehabilitating a pulled pectoralis muscle requires a careful, methodical approach to ensure effective healing and to prevent further damage.

Initially, the focus is on reducing pain and inflammation, followed by a gradual reintroduction of movement and strength to the affected area. The rehab process typically involves several stages, each tailored to accommodate the healing progression of the muscle, from rest and gentle stretches to strength-building exercises.

The duration of the rehab process can vary significantly depending on the severity of the pull and the individual’s overall health, often ranging from a few weeks to several months. Below are detailed strategies designed to facilitate recovery, explaining what they entail and how long they should typically be pursued.

Initial Rest and Ice Therapy

The first step in the rehabilitation of a pulled pectoralis muscle is to minimize further stress on the injury. This involves resting the affected area, avoiding activities that trigger pain or discomfort.

Alongside rest, applying ice packs to the injured muscle can help manage swelling and pain. Ice therapy should be applied for 15-20 minutes every few hours during the first 48-72 hours post-injury. This phase should last for approximately the first 72 hours post-injury, transitioning as pain and swelling decrease.

Gentle Stretching

Once the acute pain begins to subside, gentle stretching exercises can be introduced. These stretches should aim to maintain flexibility in the chest and shoulder area without causing pain. A simple stretch involves standing in a doorway with your forearm placed against the frame and gently leaning forward until a stretch is felt in the chest.

These gentle stretching sessions should last for 5-10 minutes each and be conducted 2-3 times daily, gradually increasing the intensity as discomfort allows, over the course of several weeks.

Strengthening Exercises

As flexibility improves and pain decreases, incorporating strengthening exercises is crucial to restore muscle functionality. Initially, exercises may involve using resistance bands for low-impact, controlled movements that target the chest and surrounding areas. Activities should be performed under the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure correct form and prevent exacerbating the injury.

Strengthening exercises typically begin a few weeks into the rehab process and continue until the muscle has regained full strength and functionality, which can take several months depending on individual progress and the injury’s severity.

Professional Physical Therapy

Professional guidance from a physical therapist can significantly enhance the rehabilitation process. A therapist can provide personalized exercises, manual therapy, and treatments such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation, tailored to the individual’s specific needs and recovery goals.

Engagement in professional physical therapy might start soon after the injury and last throughout the recovery process, adapting the treatment plan as the patient makes progress.

Final Assessment

Before fully returning to regular activities or sports, a final assessment by a healthcare professional is recommended to ensure the muscle has adequately recovered. This may involve tests for strength, flexibility, and functionality to determine if additional rehabilitation is needed.

This is a single event that marks the conclusion of the structured rehab process, though ongoing self-care and preventive exercises may continue indefinitely to promote muscle health and prevent future injuries.

The process of rehabbing a pulled pec muscle is a journey that requires patience, dedication, and a commitment to a gradual rehabilitation plan. Adhering to this process, under the guidance of healthcare professionals, ensures the best chance for a full and effective recovery.

Final Thoughts

Recovering from a pectoralis minor strain requires patience, a clear understanding of the condition, and a commitment to a careful, structured approach to rehabilitation. Recognizing early signs and symptoms and responding promptly with appropriate measures can significantly influence the recovery trajectory. While it’s tempting to rush back into regular physical routines, honoring the body’s need for rest and gradual reintroduction to exercise should be your main priority.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should you stretch a pec strain?

Yes, gentle stretching can be beneficial for a pec strain, but it should only be initiated once the acute pain has subsided. The stretches should be performed gently and never to the point of pain. Stretching helps improve flexibility and can aid in the healing process, but it should always be approached with caution to avoid exacerbating the injury.

Can I still work out other muscles while recovering from a pectoralis minor strain?

Yes, working out other muscle groups that do not strain the injured pectoralis minor is possible and can help maintain overall fitness levels during recovery. Focusing on lower body and core exercises can be a safe way to stay active. However, consulting with a healthcare professional or a physical therapist to get personalized advice based on the specifics of your injury and fitness level is crucial.

Are there any complementary therapies that can speed up the recovery process?

Complementary therapies, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, or ultrasound treatments, may support and potentially speed up the recovery process. These therapies can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow to the injured area, aiding the healing process. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating any complementary therapies into your recovery plan to ensure they are suitable for your specific condition.

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