People do not stretch the pec minor enough.
When your pec minor is tight, it pulls your shoulder out of good alignment and puts the shoulder at greater risk of injury.
What you need to do is to add a “twist”.
The pectoralis- or “pec”- minor is a small, thin, triangular muscle in your upper chest. It sits beneath the pectoralis major, a large muscle in the chest. The pec minor begins at the outer surfaces of the third, fourth and fifth ribs, and attaches to the coracoid process of the scapula. The pec minor stabilizes, depresses, abducts, internally rotates, and downwardly rotates the scapula.
When the pec minor is tight, it can cause pain at the front of the shoulder and down the arm. Tightness in the pec minor can also compromise the bundle of nerves that run down the arm. It can tip the shoulder blade forward, which can lead to rounded shoulders and winged shoulder blades, where the lower tip of the shoulder blade is winging off the rib cage. Almost everyone has a tight pec minor, as the pec minor can get tight from prolonged sitting, especially with poor posture. This can occur pretty much any time, such as when watching TV, working on a laptop or computer, or using your cell phone. Other causes of tight pec muscles are holding heavy bags on your shoulder, direct trauma to the chest, stress, or long-term use of crutches.
The typical bad posture with the shoulders rounded forward is aggravated further by tight pec minor muscles. Over time, sitting in this position leads to the pec minor muscle shortening, which leads to the muscle being tight and hyper-responsive. If you have ever tried to sit up straight and correct your posture by holding your shoulders back, tension is created between your postural muscles in the back and the tight pec muscles in your chest.
This hunched forward position of the shoulders impacts other muscles in the shoulder. When the pec minor is tight, it does not function properly. This means that other muscles, such as the levator scapulae and trapezius muscles, need to compensate by working harder to support movements in the shoulder. This is when you will experience a tight neck and shoulders and may have those pesky “knots” in your muscles. Sometimes, what feels like tension and stress in your muscles, is actually fatigued muscles in your upper shoulder that are having to work overtime to compensate for tight chest muscles. A tight pec minor can also affect the movement patterns in your shoulder, which can lead to shoulder injuries.
Try out the exercise in this post to help stretch out and release your pec minor.
In the photo below, I had Dan do a 90-90 chest stretch. He moves into the traditional chest stretch position, then I am getting him to twist his upper body away from the shoulder that he is stretching.
Bang! Now you have hit pec minor and you will get way more benefit from your chest stretch.
Give it a go, now!
Rick Kaselj, MS.
For your guide to eliminating your shoulder pain, check out Shoulder Pain Solved, here!