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Pain between your shoulder blades? It is not the muscle you think

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

Flexibility test

  • 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

The fix

  1. Raise your left arm up so the elbow is slightly above the shoulder

  2. Put the forearm on the inside of a door jam

  3. 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

  4. Without moving your body, press that elbow into the door for 5 seconds

  5. Relax the contraction and lean forward more by bending your front knee to a new stretch point

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5

  7. 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.


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3 comentários

Great question! When sleeping on your side try to keep you arms straight, in front of you and close to your hips. This will lessen any pull the chest has on the shoulder, and thus, the back. If you sleep with your arms bent and your hands close to your head, try using a pillow to lay the top arm on. This will help prevent the shoulders rolling forward.

Membro desconhecido
29 de mai. de 2021
Respondendo a



Membro desconhecido
27 de mai. de 2021

I try not to hunch over while awake but I sleep on my side. I did this stretch this morning and it really relaxes my chest. Can sleeping on your side also cause pectoralis tightness and detrimental back muscle elongation?

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