pectoral muscles

Pectoral muscle pain

Introduction:

Four pectoral muscles are present in the form of pairs on either side of the chest. Two pectoral muscles are present in each pair; the pectoral major is larger, and the pectoral minor is a smaller muscle pair. The pain in the pectoral muscles is usually caused due to several reasons; reducing arm movement and limiting function is one of them. It is not obvious that the pectoral muscle only causes pain in your chest. It can be due to many other reasons, such as pericarditis, peptic ulcer, or anxiety attacks. Such a problem can be mild or severe in different cases. Often these issues can only be treated with the help of ice packs and taking some rest, while in extreme cases, it requires complex surgeries and expert physical therapies. 

Causes:

Pectoral muscle pain is usually caused due to pulled or strained muscles in the chest wall, usually due to overuse of the muscles. This pain in the muscles is also caused due to the following reasons:

  • Lifting heavy weight for a more extended period
  • Injured yourself while playing sports such as rowing, tennis, and gymnastic
  • Injuries due to accident
  • Due to falling from a certain height
  • If you skip warm-up before any physical activity
  • Keeping your arm above your head for a more extended period
  • Due to muscle fatigue
  • Injury from broken weight machine or any other gym equipment
  • Poor athletic conditioning or flexibility
  • Lifting weight while twisting your body
  • Certain illnesses such as bronchitis and chest cold which pulls the muscles while coughing

Who are at risk of this problem?

Older people usually experience pectoral muscle pain, even in slight injury or physical activity. At the same time, adults are physically strong and experience this pain during accidental injuries and athletic activities. Children have a lower chance of being affected by this issue because the level of damage is usually lower due to excessive care.

When to see a doctor?

Immediately contact your doctor if you suddenly suffer from excessive pain during exercise or other physical activity. The following symptoms accompanied by pain are:

  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bruising
  • Pain while breathing
  • Difficulty while moving the affected area

You may need immediate medical help or emergency service if you are experiencing the following symptoms accompanied by pain:

  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Racing pulse
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Fainting

Get immediate medical help because these may be symptoms of severe health issues like a heart attack.

Diagnosis:

If you are suffering chest pain due to injury, physical activity, or any other cause, book an appointment with your doctor for medical help. During diagnosis, your doctor will ask about your health history, physical activities, and symptoms you are facing, along with pectoral muscle pain. For a complete diagnosis, your doctor may also order some tests to rule out whether this pain is due to bone fracture, heart attack, or any other reason. These tests may include:

  • X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram(ECG)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging(MRI)

Some serious possibilities of this pain include:

  • Aortic dissection(tear in your aorta)
  • Angina(Lack of blood flow towards the heart)
  • Pulmonary embolism (Blood clotting in the pulmonary artery of the lungs)

Treatment:

Some treatments options that are used to treat pectoral muscle pain include:

  • Ice: 

 Use ice or a cold pack on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times daily. Cold packs or ice help give relief from pain.

  • Elevation: 

Sleep in a recliner position and keep the chest elevated, especially at night.

  • Medication:

You can also take pain relievers to relieve the pain and reduce inflammation and discomfort. These pain relievers may include acetaminophen(Tylenol) and ibuprofen(Advil, Motrin IB).

  • Rest:

Stop workout and physical activities when you notice severe pain in your body. If you are suffering from an injury, rest for two to three days; it will help you get relief and prevent things from becoming more complicated.

  • Compression:

Compression is another technique that helps you to get relief from pain. For compression therapy, wrap areas of inflammation with an elastic bandage but do not wrap them tightly; otherwise, it starts impairing circulation.

  • Physical therapy: 

Physical therapies are also helpful in relieving pain and correcting muscle imbalance, which is the real cause of pectoral muscle pain.

  • Surgery:

If the condition is severe and cannot be treated through medication, physical therapies, or lifestyle changes, the doctor moves forward with surgery. Firstly doctor has to confirm the pectoral muscle rupture through ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging(MRI). These methods are used to get a detailed understanding of the injury. After a complete diagnosis, surgery will be performed to repair the torn muscles.

Recovery:

The recovery time usually depends on the severity of the disease or issue. Mild issues or pain from mild injuries are recovered within two to three weeks, while severe damages or surgical cases require months to heal. To get a fast recovery, carefully follow the instruction of your doctor. Avoid strenuous exercises and weight lifting. Get back to your previous routine when slowly getting relief from the pain. Pay attention if you notice any discomfort or pain during physical activities. 

Complications:

Working harder and faster while having pain or injury may worsen your condition, so try to operate according to your health and age. If the situation gets complicated, you may have difficulty in breathing or deep breathing, and you may also develop some other disease or complications due to this issue.

Preventions:

In most cases, pain caused by pectoral muscle can be easily treated at home. To prevent this pectoral muscle pain, you can use the following tips and tricks:

  • Cold muscles are vulnerable to strain which ultimately leads to pain. Always warm up before exercise and cool down after completing your workout.
  • Avoid those activities with a high risk of falling, accident, or injury. Always check athletic equipment before use, do not walk on slippery surfaces, and use handrails while going up or down stairs.
  • Pay attention to your health and age, and take days off from exercise.
  • Get a healthy diet. It will aid in keeping a healthy weight and lowering the risk of pain during physical activities.
  • Carefully lift heavy objects. While lifting heavy objects, carry serious backups for both shoulders, not on the side of your body.
  • Get immediate physical therapy for chronic strains.

 References:

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/pulled-chest-muscle#takeaway 
  • https://www.medicinenet.com/what_causes_pain_in_the_pectoral_muscles/article.htm#:~:text=2%2F5-,Pectoral%20muscle%20pain%20causes,the%20pectoralis%20muscle%20to%20tear
  • https://sportsclinicnq.com.au/pectoralis-major-strain/ 
  • https://www.physio.co.uk/what-we-treat/musculoskeletal/conditions/chest/pectoralis-major-strain.php
  • https://pivotalmotion.physio/pectoralis-minor-muscle-pain/
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