Shoulder Or Neck Pain? Check Your Pec Minor Tightness: Test & Treat

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The pectoralis minor, or pec minor for short, isn’t a commonly mentioned muscle. Most people associate the “pec” muscles with the pectoralis major, the larger of the chest or pectoralis muscles. The pec major is the muscle that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson uses to make the Pec Pop Of Love. It is far larger and far stronger than the pec minor.

So Why Test the Pec Minor?

What’s unique about the pec minor is that it attaches to the scapula (shoulder blade). The muscle starts at the 3rd-5th ribs, then attaches to the coracoid process, which is part of the scapula.

Pec Minor for shoulder pain
The red muscle is the pec minor, the scapula is highlighted in blue.

The scapula forms the foundation of the shoulder joint and has muscle attachments that connect it the to arm, neck, the upper back, and even the lower back. So if the scapula is put into a suboptimal position, it can cause a lot of issues. Let’s discuss those next.

Problems Caused By Tight Pec Minor

The most common issue caused by a tight pec minor is shoulder pain. When the pec minor is tight, it pulls the shoulder down and forward, which can compress the tissues in the shoulder joint. So joint impingement and rotator cuff issues are some of the common diagnoses with this issue.

The shoulder blade has various muscle attachments between it and the spine. When the scapula is pulled forward due to the tight pec minor, many of these muscles will be strained. Often, these muscles develop trigger points. So if you constantly get “knots” between the shoulder blades or at the back of the base of your neck, be sure to look at the pec minor as a possible cause.

Another condition the can be caused by a tight pec minor is thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). This is when nerves and/or blood vessels become compressed underneath the pec minor. Symptoms of TOS include pain, tingling, or numbness that radiates down the arm.

How does the pectoralis minor become tight?

This is one of those muscles that has suffered due to our modern lifestyle. If your hands are in front of you, then your pec minor is in a shortened position. Which means it is shortened when holding your phone, typing on a keyboard, eating dinner, etc.

As you can see, we live in a world of shortened pec minors. Which is why it’s a common issue. So let’s get on with how to test and treat this muscle.

VIDEO: Testing & Treating the Pec Minor

Movie time!

A study showed people without shoulder pain tend to have a measurement around 2-2.5 inches, while people with shoulder pain tend to have a measurement of 2.5-3 inches. That study can be found HERE.

Be sure to compare both sides, as asymmetry can be very common. If you find that one or both sides are tight, use the stretch found in the video. To remodel a tight muscle, be sure to stretch it 4-5x/day and re-test in a few weeks.

Conclusion

Tightness with the pec minor can be a major problem. If yours is tight, start stretching it so it doesn’t make more issues down the road. If you passed the test but still having shoulder or neck issues, be sure to check out the videos on shoulder internal rotation and thoracic spine mobility.

Jeff Remsburg DC MS DACRB Cert. MDT