Pectoralis Minor Stretches

As I mentioned in False Carpal Tunnel from Tight Pectoralis Minor — if that muscle is tight it can cause the shoulders to round forward and create pain between the shoulder blades. 

If very tight, it can cause numbness or tingling in your fingers, hands, and even up you arm.  If very tight it can also pinch an artery leading to the hands, causing poor circulation in them.

One way to tell if the Pectoralis Minor is causing the numbness in your fingers is to raise your arm.  If after a few minutes the numbness your numbness is worse and if lowering the arms makes it better, the problem is most likely a tight pectoralis minor muscle. 

If you get numb hands riding a bicycle, motorcycle, driving, or doing anything else where your arms are somewhat up — BUT lowering them relieves them — look to the pec minor.  Forearm muscles are also frequent culprits as well, but with them it doesn’t make any difference in the feeling whether your arms are up or down.

However unless you loosen the pec minor, your hands could become numb most of the time.

Because most of us work with our arms in front of us.  This muscle is usually tight on almost everyone.  But seldom do we feel any pain there.  Because they pull the shoulders forward, the muscles between the shoulder blades (the rhomboids) are continually fighting to keep your shoulders back. 

The solution is to loosen the pectoralis minor (First go to:  False Carpal Tunnel from Tight Pectoralis Minor) then watch the video below. 

The other thing to do is strengthen the muscles of your upper back.  (I’ll get to that another time).

This video shows stretches for the Pectoralis Minor.


Comments

Pectoralis Minor Stretches — 36 Comments

  1. Tightness of the pectoralis minor can cause an imbalance of your shoulder muscles by pushing the shoulder blade forward, which in turn can lead to poor posture, shoulder pain and neck pain. Stretching the pectoralis minor every one to two days can help to relieve this tightness and pain.

  2. Hi Jason, I tend to doubt if the pectoralis minor is your problem as it should not affect your leg or face. If you raise your arms without trying stretch them and without raising your shoulder blades and get sensations (tingling or numbness) in the fingers, then that is pec minor.

    More likely, though I have no way of knowing is that it may be coming from one or more vertebrae. What you can do is try to repeat the sensation on dry land – either on the floor or lying on a sturdy coffee table or similar. Make sure it is padded. If you can duplicate the sensation, then see if it happens if you don’t have your arms up. See what happens if you change the arch of your neck; or the arch of your back, etc. etc. In other words separate your movement into segments.

    If any one of those produce a sensation, then bend that position to each side to see if that makes it better or worse. If any of that occur, then chances are it is a vertebrae. If so it is likely that a chiropractor adjustment would be the right place to start.

    Again, I have no way of knowing. But I suggest separating each part of that activity on dry land because your body is doing many things at the same time.

  3. Jason T on said:

    Hi Hilma, thank you for the great stretches, they seemed to have improved my condition a little. I’m a long-term swimmer, and have suffered some shoulder injuries in the past. Recently, I’ve began to develop this altered sensation/weakness in my left side, primarily in the hand/arm. However, I think I can feel it a little bit in my leg and part of my face as well. This has made it difficult to pull in the water. The feeling of weakness usually is triggered after dolphin kick in a streamlined position (straights arms overhead, hands interlocked), lasts for about 5-10 seconds, and then ceases after a turning at the opposite wall. A massage therapist said I had extremely tight forearms, and my pec minor is no longer that tight, but the symptoms still occur. Could this be the pectoralis minor syndrome?

  4. Hello Tristin,

    Hi Tristin, sorry I can’t be very helpful. The little finger numbness could be coming from the pec minor or the forearm muscles on that side. The discomfort under your biceps could be referred pain from pec minor or from any of several shoulder joint or chest muscles, or directly in that location itself. So there is no way for me to figure out that. This chart shows referral patterns, but they will be as confusing as they are helpful because patterns overlap and vary. http://www.triggerpoints.net/upper-back-shoulder-arm.htm

  5. Thanks for the video for pec stretches, I had no idea i was doing one incorrectly and the others are nice to know. I have an issue I’m hoping you might have some insight on. I’m a metal guitarist that spends 5-7 days a week playing very demanding music for hours and in the last month or two I’ve been having issues with my right arm. My right pec is definitely tight, i get some numbness in my rght pinky and I get a very uncomfortable, “sour” pain on the inside of my arm that feels like it is under my bicep. I also have a cyst on my right pinky that has been there for a year and a half if that makes a difference. I’ve been very concerned as I really need my rhythm arm! :-/

    Thanks,
    Tristin

  6. Hi Gary, The most likely cause of your problem is tight forearm muscles. It is good to loosen up the pectoralis minor muscle anyway. But muscle imbalance in the forearm can not only create symtoms that mimic cubital tunnel and carpal tunnel syndrome, they are actually a major cause of them. It is important to loosen up the forearm muscles either with self massage techniques of with stretching.

    I have a free 5 part video series that helps you ocate where your problem is coming from at http://carpaltunnelmaster.com

    Hilma

  7. Hi Hilma,

    First off great website, some great vieeos on here.

    I was wondering if you could give me some advice?!

    About 2 years ago i started getting a numb ring and little finger on my right hand when using the computer. This has slowly gotten worse and to topit all my left hand stared to do the same.

    I went to the doctors, they sent me for am mri of my cervical which turned out to be fine and a nerve conduction test for cubital which was all good too. Doctor said he thought it was tight muscles and discharged me, never to be sen again.

    Thats when i found your programme and it gave me hope!

    Since it effects both hands do you think it could be the pec minor? I do a lot of computer work and it also starts after i drive for a few minutes. The only thing that helps is a massage and hot shower.

    I’m not really sure whe to start!

    Thank you in advance!!

    Gary

  8. Hello Bob. There are several stretches for the rhomboids. If you do an Internet search such as on Google, you will find them. If you are physically unable to stretch or want another alternative, there is a neat tool called the Theracane
    see my post and video about it.

    Even though the Pec Minor is weak it is good to loosen that up as well because “bullied” muscles tend to get knots which weaken them further. Push ups and bench presses strengthen the pectoralis minor. But these motions can be modified to be less intense if they are too physical for now.

  9. I think I have the opposite problem where my pec minor is underdeveloped and weak and my rhomboids are overdeveloped from holding the arm and shoulder up due to broken collar bone and separated shoulder – any advice for the converse of the situation discussed here ?

  10. Hi Mimi,

    You may have more than that going on. I suggest you sign up for my free 5 part video series on how to tell where your problem is coming from. You can sign up at http://carpaltunnelmaster.com
    Hilma

  11. Thank God. Day 3 of no sleep. Both hands numb from the ring finger to the thumb. A painful numb. A horrible ache. It slowly creeps up your arm until you find yourself crying and frantically rubbing up your forearm and upper arm. You know it won’t help, but by God, it seems the only thing left to do. Like when you let you hands get too cold when shoveling and they ache so badly when they get warm.

    Spot on…the ever present pain is between the shoulder blades. Not to mention the frequent and intense migraines.

    After 2 years of having muscle relaxers shoved at me, I finally have something that I can do MYSELF to relieve this pain.

    It is now 5 a.m. and I’ve been up for 4 hours because standing with my arm at my side brings some measure of relief.

    Consider yourself bookmarked. I will be back twice a day. When I get up and before bed.

    Please let this work!

  12. Hello Jcooper,
    I’d skip the stretch for now. Do the massage but start off very light. You are the one controlling the pressure. Obviously your pec minor is very tight. As you gradually get them loosened up they will get less painful. Remember that when a muscle is perfectly “happy” you can apply a lot of pressure and just feel the pressure and not pain. Be very patient with yourself. Do half a minute on each side at a pressure you can tolerate several times a day. It took them years to get that way, so maybe it will take a few weeks,

  13. Thanks so much for giving us something we can do on our own! I have been on disability for rsi for over 10 yrs. Today i started these to see what i could self discover. Ouch! Did the 3rd stretch in the video called “part 2 pec minor” and my arms are numb in seconds. Should i work through the numbness or not do this stretch? Also, when i do the pec minor massage, it makes me feel queezy it’s so painful. Any suggestions on starting very very light? My scalenes are killing me but thats probaby a good thing. My arms are really tingly tonight since the stretching….assume that from my having moved things around.

  14. Diamond, Thanks for the kind words.

  15. Thank you for your info and videos! As a LMT I regularly give my clients your site to visit and encourage them to do the stretches with you in between their sessions with me to ensure proper targeting. Thank you for your support within the MT community!! Your videos certainly help ppl to try natural tx vs. Rx or sx and it is SO much affordable and healthier in the long term! Again, thank you!

  16. Thank you for the pectoralis minor stretches and for the great description of how this muscle can refer pain. My finger numbness and neck and armpit pain is reduced by doing these stretches regularly.
    Regards Rob (Perth, WA)

  17. Hi. I have pain in that muscle last 2,3days i am doing gym work out , need to stop workout ?

  18. My massage therapist is the one that suggested that
    I may have this problem. After reading up on it
    and clearly seeing that I share the same pain
    and discomfort I found this site. I plan to try these
    suggested stretches in the video.

  19. jason elliott on said:

    Thank your for your help. I read your article as i had been having a blue hand on and off whilst exercising. Wrist inflamation and tingling in my hand following an RTA. Also.on breathing in had a dimple in top of chest. Went to doc after vascular surgeon and got sent for a MRI of chest and have a 4 cm rupture of pec major.

  20. Josh. Strains are tears in the muscle. There are varying degrees of strain. But you need to let it heal, which generally takes a month. People sometimes make the mistake of trying to overcome injury by working the muscle or by stretching. Both will set back the healing process. Massage of the affected area during the healing process is not good either.

    Icing can help. Gently using the muscle while icing can be more effective than icing alone.

    Once the area is healed, then you can ease into massage and stretches which will help with getting the muscle fibers lined up as they should be and soften any scar tissue that might have started forming.

    A note on workouts. A lot of people get it wrong. They work out the muscles in the front of the body and neglect the opposing muscles in the back of the body. They do pushups and bench presses and situps and squats. In other words the muscles that tend to roll you into a ball get the work out. The muscles that “unroll” you need strengthening. The muscles that “roll” you (the muscles in the front of the body need stretching (but not when strained).

    The rhomboid muscles (between the shoulder blades) need strengthening to balance out the pec minor muscles.

    A note on icing. Below 32 degrees F, ice is the temperature of the environment it comes from. If the freezer is 30 degrees F, that is how cold the ice is. If the freezer is 40 degrees below zero – that is how cold the ice is. Insulate accordingly.

  21. Hello, So far I have just started using the stretches and massage and I have already noticed a difference. I do not think I have just a tight pectoralis minor, but I believe I may have strained it while doing a bench press exercise. Does this massage and stretch work on a muscle that is not just tight, but strained? Thanks a lot for all of your help!

  22. Swim Lady. Thanks for writing. I do not know which bone you are talking about. Is it in the shoulder joint (where the arm attaches to the shoulder) or the area between the collar bone (in the front) and the top of the scapula (shoulder blade) in the back? Did your therapist say which muscles are tight? If you are still seeing a therapist (physical therapist or massage therapist?), ask him/her to write down the name of the bone and muscles.

    Having said that, two common muscles that affect swimmers (as well as a ton of other people) are muscles called the scalenes and the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The latter is a muscle a muscle that turns your head. My sample video (the one where you give your name and email) is actually about these two muscles, and describes where they are, what they do and the problems they can cause.

    Yes I believe you can reverse just about any tight muscle problem with knowledge and commitment. No all therapists are equally knowledgeable however.

    Hilma

  23. Swim Lady on said:

    I’m a competitive swimmer in all 4 strokes and have good form and coaching. A few month ago my left shoulder started bothering me. I went to PT and the problems seemed to have completely resolved after about 2 months. But then about a month ago the bone that sticks up in the middle of the shoulder (I’m not sure what that’s called) started feeling uncomfortable.

    It doesn’t effect my everyday life or really even hurt, but after hard workouts it feels uncomfortable to push on it and rotate my neck while bringing the shoulder down. Even swimming doesn’t bother it until after. I decided to try and teach myself to breath on both sides instead of one.

    My therapist said that problem is caused by tightness. The exercises in this video look great to me and I’m starting to do them. Do you think they’ll help with my problem to counter the damage done by the repetitive motion of swimming?

  24. Dr. Seradge,

    Thank you for your kind words.

  25. As a doctor, I love your view on this particular subject. Several of my clientele talk about related issues with me, and it really is stimulating that we’re not the only people who truly care!

  26. Again I’m not a doctor. But could be tight scalene muscles of the neck. Go to the tag cloud on the bottom of the right column and look for scalene. They can squeeze a vein that goes down your arm. Watch that video.

    How to tell. Raise that arm up high and hook it over your head – the idea is to really lift that collar bone as far as possible. So don’t just lay your arm on your head. Hold that for a couple minutes. If the vein goes down it is the scalene muscles. If not, see a doctor.

    Besides the stretches. You can massage these neck muscles above the collar bone. Helps to raise that shoulder a little.
    If you feel a pulse (which you shouldn’t there) you are in a wrong spot.

  27. oh it’s a vein. and since the pain started, it’s huge! and i can follow it from my hand then to then to the side of my lower arm and i follow it moving towards the inner arm opposite my elbow. no numbness in fingers. my whole arm randomly begins to feel really tight and it weakens. the other day when that happened there was a throb type twitch in my upper arm. my neck has been tight with lots of tension which started before the whole arm thing.

  28. Betzy, First, I am not a doctor. But it is unlikely that the pectoralis minor muscle is causing your problem.

    Second, more information is needed. What do you mean by “chaotic”? Is it a vein? Veins appear a little bit blueish (assuming you do not have dark skin) and travel crooked pathways. Tendons go in a straight line from the back of the knuckles to the wrist. When you say arm, do you mean up to the shoulder joint or just the elbow? Any numbness in your fingers? If so, which fingers? Bulging all the time or just sometimes? You need to define your symptoms very specifically. In the meantime, check out the scalene videos.

  29. Does a tight pectoralis include a vein on the back mid hand portruding. I was stressing a lot and had tight shoulders and neck from tension. Then i had a major panic and my hands went chaotic. and ever since my left hand randomly tightens up and a vein or nerve is bulging out and is supertight all throughout my arm. So scary and chiropractic care isn’t helping.

  30. Amber,
    As long as stretching doen’t make you feel worse, it can be very helpful. Massage is quicker, in my opinion. I cover self massage in my course, including with tennis balls, although if you can get someone else to massage – that’s great.
    A tool for effectively getting to those areas is a Theracane.

  31. I’ve been to two physical therapist and was on my way to a orthapedic surgeon when I ran across you website. The pec minor stretches instantly relieved my upper back and shoulder pain, plus muscle spasms in my lats. This is great information to have.

    Do you have more info on stretches for a chronically sore neck (all the way up to the base of my scull) with knots on it? Can a person stretch those knots out or do they have to be massaged out?

  32. Mike,
    Pectoralis minor muscles are often tight and doing the self-massage will at first be uncomfortable. Use a pressure you can tolerate. The more you do it the more the muscles will relax. I personally prefer the self-massage.
    Having said that:
    Shoulders are very complicated. There are many muscles involved. Pay careful attention to what it hurts to do or where your range of motion may be limited. Don’t just say it hurts to raise you arm (as an example) but which exact way does it hurt, because there are so many muscles in the shoulder and and they do different things. Put your arm through all of its ranges of motion and see what you discover.
    You do not say if you know what caused the problem (if you know) or how long you have had the problem. For instance when someone takes a fall that yanks the shoulder, many muscles may be involved.
    More information is necessary.

  33. Let me fist thank you for providing this very informative site and videos. I have looked and looked and for solutions to my problem without any success. To make a long story short I had tightness/minor pain issues in my right shoulder and went to see some professionals for help. This mis diognoses and bad advice actually made the problem worse. I did the first self massage and felt discomfort. In doing the second activity(the first stretch) I felt heavy discomfort and a sense of numbness/pain in the end of my fingers. Is it safe to assume pec minor tendonitis is what I have? I’d like to speak to you further, an email would be great. Thankyou again for this great source of information!

  34. Marianne on said:

    What can you tell me about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

  35. Thank you, glad it helped you. I am guessing that what worked “instantly” is the self-massage in the Part 1 video? That’s the one I use the most myself.

  36. Andrew Hull on said:

    Hilma I would like to thank you for putting up the pec minor stretch and massage info. I am a final year chiropractic graduate in Sydney and have had the carpal tunnel pec minor condition for at least 10 yrs from various sporting exploits.
    I came across your website when searching pec minor stretches for myself and my clinic clients for whom I am an intern presently. I must say this is the first time I have come across something that works instantly, at least for myself.
    Thank you so much for putting some great stuff out there.

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