Your Pec Muscles and You

Pec muscles are perhaps some of the most overlooked muscles in the body, and not just when it comes to massage.

This is your pectoralis major. It’s big. It’s your chest muscle. It helps with arm movement – moving your arm up, down, over and in. Any movement that brings your arm or shoulder closer to the midline of your body – that’s probably the pec major.

There’s another related muscle – the pec minor – underneath this muscle that’s, well, smaller. It has a slightly different structure (it connects from your ribcage to the scapula instead of the arm), but it functions in the same general way: it pulls your shoulders forward.

Now then, back to my original statement. Why are pec muscles so routinely ignored?

Quick show of hands: Who here works at a desk? Who here experiences shoulder pain? And if this isn’t you, I bet you can easily think of someone who complains regularly about shoulder and back pain.

Shoulder pain, back pain, sure. But how many of these people also complain about tightness in their chest, in their pec muscles? Not many. But in fact, most of the problems are stemming from this area. Take a look at my overly simplistic diagram:

This is a person sitting (at an imaginary desk) with good posture. Back up straight, no hunching over. The back muscles and the pec muscles are in good shape. Moving on to the second diagram:

Now this person is hunched over his or her imaginary desk. Take a look at what the muscle are doing. The back muscles have elongated in order to compensate for this posture. But the pec muscles – the pec muscles have shortened.

Some quick facts: Short muscles are more problematic than long muscles. When a muscle is shorter than normal, it means that the muscle is being constantly overworked (as opposed to just getting stretched out), which makes it ripe for trigger points and knots and all of that.

More to the point, a massage therapist needs to correct the shortened muscles before he or she can make any progress with the lengthened muscles.

Pec muscles usually have a lot of tension and adhesions, making them prime candidates for massage. And as for self-care, pec muscles are great – and really easy! – to stretch out. But that’s for next week.

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