Tight pectoralis major (chest) muscles can cause all sorts of issues with your posture resulting in an aching and stiff upper back and neck. This article will cover how to stretch it.
Anatomy of a muscle
The pectoralis major is a large muscle located near the skin in front of the rib cage. It originates on the clavicle, the sternum, and the top of the abs. It runs across the chest to insert on the upper arm. The muscles actions include moving the arm into horizontal adduction (arm comes across the body), internal rotation of the arm (turning the pages of a book that is on your lap), and flexion of the arm (raising your arm in front of you).
Causes of tightness
The pectoralis major is shortened by bad posture habits, such as hunching over or working with your arms extended in front of you. When the chest is tight, the back muscles are elongated and stressed. Pain and tension occur in the middle back when they try to do their job but are inhibited by the chest. Hairdressers, massage therapists, and people who work with computers are often affected.
Symptoms of tightness
Vulture-neck posture (head juts out in front of the body)
Pain or muscle spasm between the shoulder blades
Pain across the sternum
Pressure across the chest
Tingling or numbness in the arms, especially at night
Hold a pencil in each fist
With your arms by your sides, bend over slightly at the hips and shake out your shoulders
Stand up and look at the pencils
If they are pointing toward each other, you have a tight chest
Raise your left arm up so the elbow is slightly above the shoulder
Put the forearm on the inside of a door jam
Keeping tall and with your belly button tight, take a step forward with your left leg until you feel a slight stretch in the chest muscle and hold for 10 seconds
Without moving your body, press that elbow into the door for 5 seconds
Relax the contraction and lean forward more by bending your front knee to a new stretch point
Repeat steps 4 and 5
Relax to the starting position and switch to the other arm
This stretch can be done everyday to loosen up the chest area allowing the back muscles to do their job without the resistance of a tight chest.