Pectoralis Minor Pain And Trigger Points



A pectoralis minor that harbors trigger points may be, among others, responsible for pain at the front of your shoulder and your chest.



Although it is the little brother of the pectoralis major, it has a different function as you will learn soon.


Content

Pain Zone

Attachment Points

Function

Overuse

Impaired Movements

Palpation

Self-Massage

Pain Zone


When your pec. minor contains trigger points, it can give you pain right at the location of these spots and send it to other, seemingly unrelated areas of your body.


The main pain zone of the pec. minor is the front of your shoulder, but you might also experience a radiating pain into your chest and all the way down your inner arm. Furthermore, it is possible that this muscle creates pain in your palm - not shown in the picture below -  and in your 3rd to 5th finger.


The pec. minor can cause the following pains




The darker the red in the picture below, the more common it is to experience pain in the respective area when trigger points are present in your pectoralis minor.



Attachment Points


The pectoralis minor originates from the processus coracoideus and runs to the upper ribs. The Xs in the picture below display common areas of trigger points in this muscle.



Function


When this muscles contracts, it pulls the shoulder blade downward, forward and inward towards the ribs. Furthermore it helps to stabilize the shoulder. It prevents the shoulder blade from being pushed backwards – while walking on crutches for example – .


When the shoulder blade is fixed – e.g. with shrugged shoulders –, it pulls the rib cage upwards and thus helps with forced inhalation – e.g. heavy breathing after a very intensive sprint or run –.



Note: Normally, breathing should be done mainly with your diaphragm. Assistant breathing muscles, which are located at your chest and neck, should not be used primarily for normal breathing. Using mainly thoracic/paradox breathing which involves using those chest and neck muscles excessively will overwork them and might leave you with a tight chest and neck.


Pectoralis Minor Overuse And Trigger Point Development


Paradoxical breathing – mainly chest breathing– and poor posture – rounded shoulders – lead to overuse of this muscle. In the first case it permanently has to perform work it was not designed for, and in the second case its fibers get shortened over a long period of time. This tightens up the muscle.



On the other hand if the has to work muscle works hard – stabilizing the shoulder while walking on crutches or while doing lots of pushups – it is prone to develop trigger points, especially if you are not used to this kind of work.


Impaired Or Painful Movements


Do you remember the function of the pectoralis minor? Right, it pulls the shoulder blade forward, downward and inward. So what might happen if it is super tight or contains trigger points and you spread your arm to the side and bring it backwards?



Surely, the movement will be limited or even painful because the shoulder blade moves a little upwards and then backwards, and thus pulls on the pectoralis minor. It has to elongate and if it cannot or “does not want to” – because the stretch will put even more tension on the tight muscle – it will give you pain.


Pectoralis Minor Palpation


The pec. minor lies under the pec. major, so you will have a hard time feeling it. But as you can massage it anyway with the right instructions, we will not bother with that.


Pectoralis Minor Self-Massage


I recommend massaging this muscle with a cane or anything else that is handy and has a knob. Place the tool directly under the processus coracoideus – the bony knob you can feel at the front of your shoulder.



From here work in a steep angle downwards. As soon as you hit a tender spot, work it a couple of times with slow, deep and repeated strokes. Of course you can also use a ball for massage.


References


Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print

Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2004. Print

Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons' Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.

Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print


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