No matter what type of workout you enjoy, you’re probably around someone experiencing pectoral pain. Perhaps that person is you. Whether it’s pain lifting during a bench press, pressure in the pectoral during a problem in rock climbing, soreness from serving in volleyball, or impingement and pectoral pain from pitching in baseball, these injuries are very common. The pectoral muscles are also known as your chest muscle. They connect to the shoulder which has the highest range of motion of any joint in the human body. It is also the most inherently unstable because of its wide range (1). If you find yourself having pain during or after workouts, it is likely coming from a variety of issues. Road to Recovery Physical Therapist, Rutu Purohit explains to us the causes of anterior pectoral and shoulder pain and offers some insight into how to prevent it.
Pain is never fun and can often inhibit certain training goals, which is arguably much more frustrating. There are several causes for this nagging, persistent pain while training but the most common underlying cause is muscular imbalances. If the pectoral muscles are the primary focus in most of your workouts, there’s a strong chance the scapular muscles are weak. The body works in opposite planes. If something is overworked, there is a strong chance it is contributing to a large muscular imbalance. In the case of anterior pectoral and shoulder pain, the scapular muscles are most likely weak. Muscles involved in scapular stability are Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae, and Serratus. See the diagram below (2) for information on where these muscles are in the back.
When hitting the gym with Pectoral pain, it’s important to take a couple of prehab exercises into consideration starting with your warm-up. A dynamic warm up such as arm circles, jumping jacks, and shoulder shrugs is a great way to warm up the joint before requiring it to work. For post-workout, a proper cool down is important such as stretching the Levator Scapulae, Trapezius, and Rhomboids. Ice is also encouraged if you’re experiencing pain after the workout.
Check out Rutu’s prehab strengthening exercises below and incorporate them into your gym routine to strengthen the muscles of the back and restore balance to your body!
This exercise works to engage the lat and lower trap instead of hyper recruiting from the upper trapezius muscle.
This exercise works on external rotation of the shoulder to overhead press.
This exercise trains the rhomboids
1. Ricardo Cuéllar,1 Miguel Angel Ruiz-Ibán,2 and Adrián Cuéllar3,*“Anatomy and Biomechanics of the Unstable Shoulder” US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health. 2017 August 31.
2. Englar, Sheriff. “Shoulder Instability: Causes, Rehab and Treatment”. The Prehab Guys.