Often when considering problematic movement patterns in the body, the pec minor muscle of the shoulder can often shows up as tight and pissed off. Cool its tight, pissed off, and sore to massage, anyone can figure that out. You know yourself when something is tight and angry, you don’t need a therapist for that, but discovering the real reason why the pec minor is so pissed off can often be the missing link.
Is pec minor pissed off because it is overworking, or underworking?
If it is overworking, what is it overworking for and why?
If it is underworking, what is overworking for it and why?
Is pesky pec minor tension just a secondary symptom of a greater issue?
Is it a hardware problem, software problem, or both?
Where in your history contributed to this movement compensation taking place?
Stub your toe? Musician? Desk work? Postural stress? Breathing patterns? Car accident? Weak grip? Appendectomy? Rolled ankle? Hip/Knee arthroscopy? Repetitive movement pattern stress? Dental work? Broken arm? Shoulder deco? Core stability? Sports? Piercings? Tattoos?
These are all reasonable things to consider when trying to understand and unravel movement pattern scenarios. As you can see, it could be anything, so history is key. It is all connected, and no one person is the same.
Pectoralis Minor (Pec Minor) is located deep to the Pectoralis Major muscle at the front of the shoulder/chest, It has attachments at the coracoid process of the scapula, and the 3rd 4th and 5th ribs near their costal cartilage’s. The muscle can actively contribute to depression, anterior tilt, abduction or protraction, and downward rotation of the scapula. Basically rolling the shoulder forward. Therefor it can also contribute to eccentrically decelerate the opposite movements of the scapula. With its attachments to the ribs, pec minor can also help elevate the rib cage (chest breathing).
Thats a localised approach to describing the influence the pec minor has on the scapula and rib cage, though remember its all connected. When something moves, everything moves. What effect could pec minor have on the feet below? or the pelvis? or flexion/extension/rotation of the spine? What influence could the structures, joints, tissues below have on pec minor?
Try for yourself
Stand up and roll your one of your shoulders forward and hold that position. Now try to lift your arm up by your side and over your head. Feel good? I didn’t think so…
Now roll your shoulder back and try lifting your arm up over head. Aghhhh thats better. Hopefully…
Stand up and go for a walk. Feel how your left shoulder advances forward as your ribcage rotates to the right, at the same time your right hip flexes forward, and your left hip extends backwards.
Its all connected.
Perhaps the shoulder is angry because it is helping the grip?
Muscles of the hand that contribute to grip strength are connected to the Pec Minor via the myofascial train known as the Deep Front Arm Line (Thomas Myers, Anatomy Trains). If part of the fascial line ain’t pulling its weight, further up or down the line can pitch in to lend a hand.
Ever tried to open a jar that is super tight? When you begin you are cool calm and collected (maybe), as you realise its a bit of a struggle you decided to put a bit more oomph into it and make some sort of weird pain face… nope didn’t work.. you realise you are a grown man, and begin conjuring up images of a young girl who can handle a jar of vegemite better than you, there is no way you are going to let that jar or young girl win, so you put everything in, you clench your teeth, hold your breath, make weird noises, roll your shoulders forward, and pop! you got it… Well done tough guy
Though the compensations aren’t ideal, you did what you had to do to achieve the task. Use these cheat patterns enough and you get good at them. Where else might you be making compensations to achieve the task at hand? In your workout? Job? Kitchen? Hobbies?
We know what affect the patterns of the Pec Minor can have on the scapula. So what tissues can oppose those affects? What muscles may be considered as a functional opposite?
The Latissimus dorsi (Lat) is a common functional opposite muscle that Pec Minor can have powerful influence over.
The Lat has attachments on spinous processes of vertebrae T7-12, thoracolumbar fascia, iliac crest, sacrum, inferior angle of the scapula, and bicipital groove of the humerus. The only muscle that connects the shoulder directly to the centre. You could say the Lat its a pretty big deal…
So if pec minor is working hard for a sleepy lat, you can’t blame the poor little guy for being stressed!
The key is to balance the motor control. Educate the brain that Lat Dorsi is available, and that Pec Minor can take a little snooze here and there.
Stand up and go for a walk. Feel how your left shoulder advances forward as your left arm swings forward and your ribcage rotates to the right, at the same time your right hip flexes forward, and your left hip extends backwards.
What happens if you roll your ankle a beauty, and now when you walk you have to limp and work harder to carry your right leg forward. Exactly that, where some structures in the body can’t work at optimum efficiently, perhaps for good reason like injury, other structures may have to step in.
In this scenario what patterns might pec minor be lending a helping hand?
How can you re-educate the body post recovery of the efficient patterns it had available to it pre injury?
Most people these days are familiar with the terms chest breathing, thoracic breathing, or shallow breathing. If an individual struggles to breath air into the lungs via the descent of the diaphragm, the muscles of the upper chest and neck can elevate the ribcage for air to be taken into the chest. At over 20,000 breaths per day thats a lot of work for the muscles that elevate the rib cage. Its any wonder they could become tight at that kind of workload.
Finding out why an individual struggles to breath into their diaphragm is crucial in this case. Is it emotional? learned? asthmatic? fear? nutritional? is the diaphragm busy working hard for something else? caveman desk-warrior posture?
For greater results, put on a detective cap and figure out WHY the Pec Minor is tight. Is it short? Is it long? Is it working hard for something else? Is something working hard for it? Figure that out, and create an environment for the body to have an experience of what it was missing or had forgotten.
Consider working with someone who understands full body movement integration, can help you unravel the puzzle, and encourage new motor control sequencing.
Where in your life is contributing to the issue? Work posture? Emotions? Movement patterns? Diet? Perspective? All things to be considered if you want to truly challenge your environment and create a new outcome.
Feel free to contact me to arrange an assessment today.