The chest muscles, known as the pectoral muscles, are acturally two different muscles in the front of the chest. These muscles are known as the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major has attachments from your breastbone to the front of your shoulder, while the pectoralis minor attaches from your shoulder blade to the front of your ribs.
The Function of the Chest Muscles
The chest muscles help move the shoulder blade and the shoulder joint. If you want to push something, like while opening a door, your chest muscles are active. When these muscles contract, the shoulders and arms move inward. The pectoral muscles are also responsible for reaching your arm across the front of your body.
Injury to the Chest Muscles
Occasionally, the chest muscles can be injured. If you are lifting something heavy and are using the chest muscles, your may suffer a strain to these muscles. This can cause significant pain in the front of the chest. A strain to the pectoral muscles may also cause shoulder pain.
A significant strain to the chest may cause one of the muscles to tear. This type of injury is rare, but it can cause significant pain, bruising, or swelling. If you suspect you may have torn your chest muscle, seek medical attention right away. Traumatic tears to the pectoral muscles may require surgery to repair the tear and restore normal arm and shoulder function.
The Chest Muscles Can Affect Posture
Tightness in your chest muscles may occur if you maintain a slouched posture throughout each day. A rounded shoulder posture can place the chest muscles in a shortened position, and this position can make it difficult to sit up tall. Poor posture may lead to other problems in the body like low back pain or neck pain. It may also be a cause of shoulder pain. To help keep the chest muscles from getting too tight, maintaining proper posture is a must.
If you have suffered an injury to the chest muscles or if you are having difficulty attaining and maintaining proper posture because of tight chest muscles, stretching may be in order to help correct the problem.
There are many different ways to stretch the chest muscles. One simple way is by performing the towel chest stretch. Be sure to speak with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any flexibility exercise program.
Here's how to perform the towel chest stretch:
- Obtain a long bath or beach towel. If you do not have a towel handy, just use your belt or a strap.
- While standing and holding the towel at both ends, lift your arms overhead and then allow your arms to fall behind your neck and back. You should feel some slight rotation in your shoulders. Be sure to keep your arms straight.
- With both arms holding the towel behind your back, you should feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Relax and hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Remember to breathe slowly and let the chest muscles stretch gently.
- Slowly return to the starting position and rest for a few seconds. You can repeat the stretch 3 to 5 times a few times a day.
Towel stretches are a great way to improve your flexibility and range of motion because they do not require any special equipment. All you need is a towel or a belt. The stretches can be peformed anywhere.
If you are having shoulder pain or are having a difficult time maintaining upright posture, speak with your doctor or physical therapist to see if there is tightness in your chest muscles. A simple stretch like the towel chest stretch may be one way to improve your flexibility in this muscle group to help you regain normal motion and function.