In the bodybuilding world—and for any guy that invests time into strengthening and toning his muscles, for that matter—the “pecs” get lots of attention. The biceps, back and abdominal muscles may get a majority of the focus, but having a defined chest is also quite important to most weightlifters. Unfortunately, working on the pecs too aggressively can lead to a tendon tear, which is a severe injury with a long recovery. This can be devastating to any weightlifter or athlete, but our New York City physical therapists can provide effective treatment throughout the entire process.
The pecs actually consist of two muscles: the pectoralis major, which makes up the bulk of muscle in the chest, and the pectoralis minor, which is a thin, triangular muscle right below it. The pectoralis major is a large, thick and powerful fan-shaped muscle, and it’s used to rotate the arm inwards and pull the arm in a variety of directions. It has two sections that come together into the pectoralis major tendon, which attaches to the humerus bone of the upper arm near the biceps.
Tearing this tendon only occurs very rarely, but it’s an extremely painful injury with serious consequences. This type of injury most commonly happens when the external force on the muscle is greater than the force that the muscle can generate. In most cases, the arm has to be extended and rotated outwardly in order for this to occur.
This is why bench pressing is the most common cause for pectoralis major tendon tears, but the injury can also result from other weightlifting exercises, as well as contact and collision sports like football, rugby, hockey and wrestling. A pectoral tendon tear causes severe pain as soon as it occurs, and will lead to more pain when attempting to rotate or pull the arm to the side. Bruising and swelling of the upper chest will also develop.
If a patient experiences a partial tear of the tendon, surgery may not be recommended and rehabilitation through physical therapy and other methods will be prescribed instead. But if the tear is complete, surgical repair is usually necessary, which consists of reattaching the tendon to the bone through a variety of techniques. Following this procedure, a lengthy course of physical therapy is needed, but our New York City physical therapists can guide patients through every step of this recovery process.
Rehabilitation for pectoralis major tendon tears from New York City physical therapists
- The patient will be placed in a sling immediately after surgery to prevent movement of the shoulder for 3-6 weeks
- At first, strengthening exercises are avoided and only gentle movements of the shoulder are recommended; we prescribe pendulum exercises at this stage to improve range of motion
- As the healing progresses over many weeks, the full range of motion of the shoulder returns, and strength is gradually built back up with other exercises
- We generally advise against weightlifting and sports for the first few months after surgery as each patient rebuilds
- As the tendon heals and the shoulder range of motion comes back completely, certain weightlifting movements can begin slowly
- Full return to weights and sports can take 4-6 months, if not longer
Clearly, the recovery from a pectoralis major tendon tear is long and intense, but it is completely possible with hard work. Best of all, our New York City physical therapists will guide you through the entire process and ensure that your rehabilitation is a success. So if you’re dealing with a tendon tear of any sort, or any other painful condition, contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on pectoralis major tendon tears.