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What are the signs and symptoms of a pectoralis muscle tear? How can Physical Therapy help?

Pectoralis Muscle Anatomy

There are two pectoralis muscles: the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. Pectoral Muscles

  • The pectoralis major is the larger of the two muscles and has two portions. The first portion extends from the clavicle to the humerus or upper arm bone. The second portion extends from the sternum and costal ribs one through seven to the humerus. The main action of the pectoralis major is to rotate the arm in (shoulder internal rotation) and to perform shoulder adduction.
  • The pectoralis minor extends from the third, fourth and fifth ribs to the coracoid process of the scapula. Its main functions are to elevate the ribs to assist with inspiration and to protract the scapula.

Risks for Injuring the Pectoralis Muscles

The most common causes of injury occur during forceful activities, most commonly bench pressing. Other causes of injury are manual labor, rugby, skiing, football, wrestling and hockey.

Signs and Symptoms of Pectoralis Muscle Tear

  • Pain
  • Pop or Snap
  • Bruising down the arm
  • Weakness with shoulder adduction and internal rotation
  • Loss in normal contour of the axillary fold

Grades of Pectoralis Tear (also known as a strain) indicate the severity of injury- the majority of pectoralis strains are grade 2 tears.

Grade 1- a small number of fibers are torn resulting in some pain, but allowing full function

Grade 2- a significant number of fibers are torn with moderate loss of function

Grade 3- all muscle fibers are ruptured resulting in major loss of function

What is the Treatment and Healing Time for a Pec Muscle Tear?

Unless the tendon is completely ruptured from the humerus, most pectoralis muscle tears heal within six weeks. The goal of physical therapy for a pectoralis muscle tear is to provide treatment that breaks up the adhesions or scar tissue and bring in blood flow allowing the muscle to heal. The early stages of physical therapy include modalities to decrease pain such as ultrasound and muscle e-stim. Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization combined with rehab (also known as FAKTR) is used in our Physical Therapy Clinic at Pro Physio to expedite the healing progress. Range of motion and stretching exercises are also used in the early stages of physical therapy. Typically after six weeks, patients are able to progress with strengthening exercises and functional activities.

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