The pectoralis major muscles, commonly called your “pecs,” are your largest chest muscles. They help move your arms forward and backward. They’re the muscles that let you press your arms upward (which is actually forward when you’re lying on your back) as you bench-press weights. Like all your other muscles, pectoralis major is attached to the bone by a tendon; and like every tendon, it can be injured. Injuries to the pectoralis major tendon aren’t common. However, when they do occur, they can cause significant disability for athletes.
In this blog, NYC shoulder specialist Dr. Francis Mendoza will explain the treatment options for a pectoralis tendon rupture.
How does a pectoralis tendon rupture happen?
The pectoralis muscle is a powerful muscle. Consider: it’s the muscle that lets you bench-press twice your body weight. That’s astonishingly strong. But it does more than move the arm backward or forward. It also allows the arm to rotate inward, and pulls it closer to the body. If you reach in front of you and push something, you’re using your pecs. If you rotate your arm so the palm of your hand faces outward, pectoralis helps rotate it. And if you hold your arms out at your sides, then lower them, this too is your pectoralis major in action.
The pectoralis major tendon is usually injured during what is called an eccentric contraction. This happens when the external force of the muscle is greater than the force that the muscle can generate. A pectoralis major injury is also likely to happen when your arm is extended and externally rotated, like when you lift the weight as you bench-press.
Pectoralis injuries are most common in men between 20 and 40—men who are in the most physically active phase of their lives. Pectoralis major tendon rupture can also be the result of high-contact sports like football, and can occur during traumatic accidents also.
What are the symptoms of a pectoralis tendon rupture?
The pectoralis major makes up a large portion of the upper chest, and a pectoralis tendon rupture causes not just pain and weakness, but physical deformity of the chest and also the upper arm. There may be bruising in the chest wall, and when the injury occurs you may hear a tearing or popping sound.
What are the treatment options for a pectoralis tendon rupture?
In most cases, surgery is usually necessary to repair a pectoralis major injury. In elderly people, this may be avoided, depending on their level of activity and how much the injury will restrict their day-to-day activities. If the muscle itself is ruptured and the rupture occurs in the belly of the muscle, or if the tendon is injured but is only partially torn, surgery may also be forgone. However, athletes who want to return to their sport and other active people who want to return to normal strength require a surgical repair of the injury.
Surgical repair involves an incision between the pectoralis major and deltoid muscles of the shoulder. Through this incision, a variety of techniques can be used to reattach the tendon to the bone. Occasionally, especially if the injury is chronic, a tendon transplant—which involves removing tendon tissue from another part of the body or even from another body–is required to complete the repair.
Where can I find pectoralis tendon rupture repair surgery in NYC?
Dr. Francis Mendoza is a fellowship-trained Manhattan shoulder specialist who is dedicated to providing personalized treatment plans for each of his patients. If you’re suffering from a shoulder injury such as a pectoralis tendon rupture, schedule an appointment with Dr. Mendoza today and have your condition evaluated.