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What Are the Most Common Causes of Pectoral Muscle Pain?

An anatomical illustration showing many muscles in the upper body, including the pectoralis major.
Apply a cold compress to an injured area to help reduce swelling and pain.
Oral medication can offer relief from pectoral muscle pain.
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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 21 April 2014
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The pectoral muscle is located in the chest, and is required in order to move the upper arms and shoulders. Many people work out this large chest muscle often, while others merely use it when performing daily activities. Either way, pectoral muscle pain can indicate an issue since it usually means that the muscle has been strained, leading to swelling, bruising, and even the temporary inability to move the arms. This commonly occurs after lifting heavy weights, playing a sport without warming up properly, and general overuse.

Many weightlifters concentrate on working out the pectoral muscle frequently. If done correctly and with weights that are not too heavy, pectoral muscle pain can usually be kept at bay. Unfortunately, some weightlifters progress from low weights to very high weights too fast, and strain this large chest muscle. Even those who progress slowly sometimes forget to stretch first, tearing the muscle as they lift weights. Additionally, lifting weights above the head improperly, such as unevenly, can cause strain on at least one side of the muscle.

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Even those who do not mean to work out their pectoral muscle can hurt them by accident. This is common in sports, especially those that involve contact with other players, such as football and wrestling. Forgetting to stretch before practice can lead to a strain that causes pain in the pectoral muscles. Of course, making sudden contact with the ground or another player can also cause injury to this area, tearing the chest muscle. Stretching first and attempting to protect the pectoral muscle from trauma can help avoid injuries.

Just because someone does not lift weights or play sports does not mean that he or she can always avoid pectoral muscle pain. Many people lift heavy objects often, either at home or work. Frequent use of this muscle, especially when lifting heavy items without warming up first, can result in a strain.

Fortunately, this kind of injury can usually be prevented by remembering to stretch before using this muscle, as well as not lifting items that are too heavy. Pectoral muscle pain is usually treated with rest, pain relievers, and cold compresses to the area. It is important for people with a pectoral muscle injury to stop using the muscle until it is fully healed, and to see a doctor if home treatment does not work. This could be a sign of a severe chest muscle strain, or even a more serious condition that has been overlooked.

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Discuss this Article

anon355148
Post 5

This is the most common problem for anyone trying to get back in shape after taking a few years off from working out or manual labor. I mean a lot of people have run to the ER thinking they are having some type of heart attack, but rest assured, it's just from not being active or moving too fast in trying to work out or new type of job that calls for more upper body use. Even when jogging, if you're reaching that obese state and trying to lose weight, the bouncing of the pecs can cause some major pain around bedtime later that evening and can really play tricks on your mind with chest pains.

So what I do is, if I feel this coming on, I take a couple days off from working out and as long as I didn't push too hard, I'm ready to work out again. I have pushed too hard, too fast and had to take a week off before I started to feel back to normal, so the key here is understanding your body and when you breathe in to push your stomach out as in breath control.

StarJo
Post 4

Starting a new job that requires heavy lifting can cause pectoral muscle pain. I got hired to fill orders in a warehouse, and I had to move heavy boxes from both high and low shelves onto a pallet all day long.

After my first eleven-hour day, my pectoral muscle was in so much pain that I couldn't go to work on my second day. The boss told me that this was okay, because it happened to most folks who weren't accustomed to this type of work.

When I came back to work, he told me to do a little at a time. He said I could sweep the aisles in between lifting trips until my muscles got used to this type of work.

I have to stretch thoroughly every morning before I start. My pectoral muscle is used to the strain now, and I have bulked up quite a bit from using it so much. As long as I stretch properly, I don't have problems with pain anymore.

wavy58
Post 3

I have an exercise machine that provides resistance and lets me do a variety of workouts without lifting an actual dumbbell. Two large bars with handles hang down from above on either side of the bench, and I use these to work my pectoral muscles.

I can adjust the amount of resistance, as well as the way that the bars will move. When I put a metal rod through a center hole, it frees up the bars for me to press them inward, and this is a great pectoral muscle workout.

However, I got overzealous when I first got the machine. Instead of starting out at the lowest setting and doing the minimum amount of reps, I tried seeing how much I could do.

Because I was pulling the bars inward toward the center of my chest, my pectoral muscle was under a lot of strain. It didn't hurt right away, but the next day, this muscle was so incredibly sore. I had to take anti-inflammatory medication just to tolerate the pain.

OeKc05
Post 2

@shell4life – I pulled my pectoral muscle in a vehicle, as well. Mine involved the steering wheel instead of the seatbelt, though.

After much coaxing, my husband finally got me to drive his go-cart. I had no experience handling one of these, and though he had told me that I would have to swing wide to turn, I didn't realize how wide.

When I tried to turn the wheel to go through a gate, I realized in a panic that it wasn't going to fit. So, I jerked the wheel with all my might. Not only did this not work, it also caused me to strain my pectoral muscle terribly.

I had to turn off the engine and sit there for five minutes before I was even able to drive in a straight line. That is one of the worst pains I have ever experienced, and I will now be more careful when using that muscle in any situation.

shell4life
Post 1

I have experienced extreme pain in my pectoral muscle after pulling it accidentally. I never lift weights, but doing one simple thing that I do every day caused me to suffer from a strain.

I am a multi-tasker, and I rarely use both hands to do anything, even the things I should be using both to do. I got in my car one day and attempted to buckle my seatbelt with one hand while reaching for my gloves with the other, and this is how I pulled my pectoral muscle.

I suppose I was tensing it without realizing it, because when I forced the belt into the buckle, I felt a terrible shooting pain in the area between my underarm and chest. It hurt so bad that I cried.

There was nothing I could do to make the pain go away. I just had to endure the intense burning for nearly ten minutes. Even massaging the area did nothing but make it hurt worse.

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