The pectoralis major muscles, also referred to as your “pecs,” are your largest chest muscles. They run from your breastbone to your shoulder joint and attach to both your upper arm bone (your humerus) and your shoulder blade (your clavicle), and their job is to move your arms forward and backward. Although these are very powerful muscles, it’s possible to rupture them if overexerted.
In this blog, NYC orthopedic shoulder specialist, Dr. Francis Mendoza, will explain the types of pectoralis major rupture injuries, their causes, and what you should do if you think you may have suffered from one.
What is a pectoralis major rupture?
A pectoralis major rupture is defined as a tear that occurs either in the tendons attaching the muscle to the bone or in the body (known as the belly) of the muscle itself. This can occur at the site of any of the muscle attachments, but the most common pectoralis major rupture occurs when the tendon tears away from the humerus. Another common type of rupture occurs when the muscle tears at the point where muscle becomes tendon. Less commonly, you may suffer from a tear within the main body of the muscle. While rare, it’s also possible that the muscle can tear away from the place where it’s anchored to the sternum, also known as your breastbone.
While a pectoralis rupture is less common than other types of shoulder injuries, when it does occur, it is usually during activities requiring a great deal of force, such as weightlifting—especially bench pressing. A rupture may also result from a traumatic accident or occur during high contact sports such as football or wrestling.
What are the symptoms of a pectoralis major rupture?
A pectoralis major rupture usually causes sudden pain in the front of your shoulder or your chest. Other symptoms may include:
- A tearing sensation or pop along with the pain
- Swelling, tenderness, or/and heat in your chest, armpit, or at your shoulder where the muscle attaches
- Bruising in these areas
- Pain or weakness when trying to use your pecs
- Loss of firmness in the muscle on the affected side of your chest
- Distorted shape on the affected side
What should I do if I think I may have suffered from a pectoralis major tear?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms commonly associated with this type of injury, you should seek evaluation from an experienced shoulder surgeon. In many cases, a surgical repair may be necessary to ensure proper healing and a return to normal function. The surgical technique used depends on the severity of the injury and the type of injury sustained. One such surgical approach for this injury involves reattaching the tendon to the bone through an incision between the pectoralis major and deltoid muscles. Fortunately, with proper treatment, you have a good chance of returning to normal activities—including sports—after a six-month recovery time.