In this article, we provide everything you need to know about a torn pectoral muscle and the most effective ways to treat the condition.
A pectoral muscle injury is relatively common in bodybuilders and regular gym workers. There are two pectoral muscles, pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major muscle, or chest muscle, is a large muscle with a fan-shaped muscle belly. There are two heads of the muscle: a clavicular head that arises from your collarbone (Clavicle) and a sternal head that emerges from the sternum bone (Breast bone). The tendinous insertion of both heads is on the humerus.
The main function of the pectoral muscle is to move your arm across your body. It also aids in the inward rotation of your upper arm. When you execute a normal bench press or push-up, your two pectoral muscles work together.
Pectoral muscles are torn mostly in males between the ages of 20 and 40. Especially in weight lifters, when the pectoralis muscle strongly contracts while it is extended, a tear usually develops.
In this article, you will get complete information about torn pectoral muscles which you need to know if you are an athlete or a bodybuilder.
Symptoms of the torn pectoral muscle
You will feel chest or shoulder pain, which can be intense (acute) or subtle (chronic). It is one of the most common signs of chest muscle strain. If you feel swelling or spasms of the muscles or breathing difficulty, it is highly likely that one of your pectoral muscles is torn.
Bruising in the area of the armpit or front of the shoulder is also an indication of a torn pectoral muscle(1). This is because of ruptured blood vessels in muscle fibers. As blood vessels rupture, the blood accumulates in subcutaneous tissue which appears as bluish marks on the skin of the armpit.
If you feel a sudden popping or tearing sensation during heavy chest exercise, there is a high probability that your pectoralis major tendon is torn. It is also associated with swelling and weakness of movements or immobilization at the shoulder joint.
Causes of the torn pectoral muscle
The tear can either be partial or complete. This happens mainly in the activities that require a lot of force, such as weightlifting and bench press workouts. In addition, if you meet an accident or a severe injury, it can damage your pectoral muscle. Other high-impact sports, such as wrestling, rugby, or American football can damage your pectoral muscle.
People who are involved in collision sports are most likely to experience a pectoralis major tear. High-impact sports, such as wrestling, rugby, or American football can damage your pectoral muscle. These include wrestling, rugby, and American football(2). In these sports, the athletes can experience trauma or accidents resulting in damage to the pectoral muscles.
Benchpress exercise is also a common cause of pectoral muscle tears. Heavy weightlifting during the exercise puts additional stress on the muscle and increases the chances of muscle tear. Contraction of muscle while it is fully stretched such as during the bench press, results in a tendon tear.
Treatment of torn pectoral muscle
Immediate treatment includes proper first aid. The first 2 to 3 days after the injury are critical. The R.I.C.E. method is one of the first-line treatments. Stop doing any kind of movement to avoid further damage.
Apply the ice pack for about 15 to 20 minutes after every 2 to 3 hours for 2 days. This has positive effects on reducing pain. Compression of the affected area is also effective in reducing swelling. Compression should not be tight as it may interrupt the blood flow. The last one includes the elevation in which the affected area is raised above the heart level. This improves the blood supply of the damaged area and reduces swelling and pain.
Medical treatment involves the use of painkillers, steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. A major rupture of the pectoralis muscle tendon frequently needs surgical repair(3). X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging are necessary for you prior to the surgery to determine the extent of the damage. Large sutures are placed in the torn tendon and then attached to the arm bone. In such major damage, you need surgical treatment immediately to avoid the formation of scar tissue.
The pectoral muscles are one of the most important muscles, as they play a role in breathing and arm movements. Therefore, you must take care to avoid injury to these muscles, especially if you are an athlete or a sportsperson.
Avoid hard lifting and overhead activities. You must do proper stretching prior to the exercise. This increases the range of motion and improves the activity of your muscles. Warm-up and cool down before and after your workout. During weight training, there should be a gradual increase in weight.
Be cautious when participating in activities that put you in danger of falling or other injuries. When climbing or descending stairs, use handrails, prevent walking on slick surfaces, and inspect sports equipment before using it.
Lift heavy objects with caution. Carry your Heavy backpacks on both shoulders, not on one side. If you have chronic strains, you should consider physical therapy. Take a good diet and exercise regularly. As a result, you may be able to maintain a healthy weight and athletic conditioning while reducing your risk of strain.
A tear of the pectoralis muscle is a painful condition and you should avoid it, especially if you are a weightlifter or an athlete. Here in this article, we have explained to you the causes and symptoms indicating torn pectoral muscle. You should also keep in mind the preventive measures to avoid this condition because if you are a weightlifter or an athlete, it can adversely affect your career. If you are an athlete and you experience this condition, you should stop doing heavy exercise and consult the sports medicine department. If the symptoms worsen over time, then seek your orthopedic doctor’s advice immediately for proper medical care.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a torn pectoral muscle to heal?
After a surgical pectoralis repair, the healing and rehabilitation process may take anywhere from 6 months to a year. The healing time depends on the severity of the injury, in the case of nonsurgical repair. Your diet also determines the time of recovery. Adequate hydration with proper nutrient intake boosts the recovery process
Can a torn pectoral muscle heal itself?
If you have a minor or partial tear of the pectoralis major, it will be able to heal on its own over time. However, if your pectoral muscle is torn, then even after undergoing surgery, it will not heal completely. Proper massage and physical therapy will intensify the natural healing ability of your pectoral muscles(4).
What does a pulled pectoral feel like?
You will feel swelling on the front of the chest if your pectoral muscle is pulled. This is due to the inflammation of the site, which is a compensatory mechanism for injury. In addition, sudden pain while breathing is a common indication that your pectoral muscle is pulled. If you feel like this, you need to consult your doctor for medical advice in this regard.
Do pec tears hurt?
If you have a minor pectoral tear, you will experience mild to moderate chest wall pain along with difficulty in movement. However, in case of a major rupture or complete tear, you will feel excruciating pain with complete loss of muscle activity.
- Beloosesky, Y., Grinblat, J., Katz, M., Hendel, D., & Sommer, R. (2003). Pectoralis major rupture in the elderly. Clinical Imaging, 27(4), 261–264. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0899-7071(02)00548-x
- Sartori, S., & Whiteley, R. (2019). Pectoralis major ruptures during rugby league tackling — Case series with implications for tackling technique instruction. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2019.08.011
- Gupton, M., & Johnson, J. E. (2019). Surgical Treatment of Pectoralis Major Muscle Ruptures: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 7(2), 232596711882455. https://doi.org/10.1177/2325967118824551
- Goats, G. C. (1994). Massage–the scientific basis of an ancient art: Part 1. The techniques. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(3), 149–152. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.28.3.149