The pectoralis muscle or pecs is located at the front of the chest, it extends from the clavicle (collarbone) and sternum (breast bone), and attaches to the arm humerus (arm bone).
It is made up of 2 main muscles – the pectoralis major, the larger muscle of the pectoralis which helps to move your arms in front of your body, and the pectoralis minor, the smaller of the 2 pectoralis muscles and it helps to move the shoulder blades forward. Both muscles are important in ensuring a good range of motion and strength in the arms and shoulder.
A pectoralis major rupture is a rare injury that occurs when the tendon or muscles associated with the pectoralis major gets torn or ruptured.
A pectoralis major rupture can occur in 4 areas, these are:
Tendon tears or ruptures off the arm bone
Tear or rupture where the tendon and muscle connect
Tear or rupture within the pectoralis major muscle
Tear or rupture of the muscle from the breast bone
What causes pectoralis major rupture?
A pectoralis major rupture can either be a partial tear or a complete rupture of the tendon or muscle.
Pectoralis major rupture is caused by:
Weightlifting: particularly bench press exercises, where heavy weights are lifted predominantly with the pectoralis major. This might cause the tendon or muscles of the pectoralis major to snap or rupture.
Contact sports: sports such as football, wrestling, or rugby can cause the tendon or muscles of the pectoralis major to rupture or tear.
Injury: trauma or accidents can also cause pectoralis major rupture.
What are the symptoms of pectoralis major rupture?
Symptoms of a pectoralis major rupture include:
Severe pain in your chest muscles
Popping sound when the pectoralis major ruptures
Pain or weakness in upper arms
Bunching or lumping of the pectoralis major
Bruising or swelling
If you notice any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.
Yes. A pectoralis major rupture causes sudden and severe pain in the pectoralis muscle.
This is accompanied by loss of strength in the chest and upper arm muscles, bruising, and bunching up of the pectoralis major muscle.
Who is at risk of pectoralis major rupture in Singapore?
The following factors increase your risk of a pectoralis major rupture:
Age: men between the ages of 20 to 40 are more prone to a pectoralis major rupture.
Gender: while it can also happen in women, a pectoralis major rupture is more commonly seen in men.
Weightlifters:weightlifters, especially those who bench press very heavy weights are at high risk of a pectoralis major rupture.
Athletes or hobbyists: participating in certain sports such as wrestling, football, rowing, rugby, etc increase your risk of a pectoralis major rupture.
Steroids:research has shown that individuals who consume steroids are at a higher risk of a pectoralis major rupture. This is because steroids grow muscles bigger and disproportionately compared to the size of tendons, resulting in tendons unable to withstand the heavy weights that muscles can, causing them to rupture.
How is pectoralis major rupture diagnosed?
Diagnosis of a pectoralis major rupture involves the following:
Physical examination: during your physical examination, it is important to inform your orthopaedist on how the injury occurred. Your muscle strength will be tested and your orthopaedist will palpate the area for signs for a tear or rupture.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): an MRI will be conducted to identify the area of rupture and its severity, such as a partial tear or complete rupture.
X-ray: an x-ray will be used to rule out other issues such as shoulder injuries.
What are the treatment options for pectoralis major rupture in Singapore?
Treatment of a pectoralis major rupture depends on its severity and location, and on the lifestyle/age of the individual.
Treatment options include:
Non-surgical: recommended for older individuals and for those with a sedentary lifestyle. Rest and ice the area to allow the area to heal. Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and painkillers to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Surgical: surgery, also known as a pectoralis major repair, can be performed on young and active individuals. Depending on where the rupture occurred, the area will be repaired before rehabilitation can occur.
Physiotherapy: this option is advised for all individuals regardless of treatment option (surgical or non-surgical). Physiotherapy involves the use of gentle and therapeutic exercises to strengthen and rehabilitate the area.
Frequently asked questions
How do you repair a pectoralis major rupture?
How serious is a torn pec muscle?
How long does a pectoralis major rupture take to heal?
Can a pectoralis major rupture heal on its own?
Feeling aches and pains?
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