Your pectoral muscle group actually consists of 2 muscles located on your chest: Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor. These muscles can contribute a lot to postural changes if they become too tight. Let's take a closer look at these muscles to better understand their functions and then discuss how to stretch them.
Pectoralis Major is the larger and more superficial of the two pectoral muscles. It's thick and fan shaped, and is responsible for a variety of actions. Its actions are as follows:
Pectoralis Minor is the smaller chest muscle that lies just underneath pectoralis major. It's thin and fan shaped and has two main actions:
So why is it so important to stretch your pectoralis major and minor?? Well, when your pectoral muscles are too tight then they pull your arms and shoulders forward (think slouchy hunchback styles). Overly tight pectoral muscles contributes to Upper Cross Syndrome, which is a combination of muscle imbalances and poor posture from spinal misalignments.
This is a common occurrence for students who slouch during class and are hunched over during study sessions, and also common for people with desk jobs and other keyboard warriors who sit hunched forward staring at computer screens for hours on end. This poor posture places a lot of extra stress on your neck, upper back and spine - ouch!
Since you now know why stretching the pectorals is so important, let's review a few simple stretches to loosen them up!
None of the stretches shown should cause any numbness, tingling, pain or discomfort. If you feel any of those aforementioned messages from your body during your stretch, please stop and consult your Chiropractor, it might be time to have your spine checked. Click HERE to make an appointment.
Remember to keep breathing as you stretch! If you notice yourself holding your breath, you might be forcing the stretch too much and should probably ease off a touch. You should find that you're able to stretch further when you relax into the stretch. It just takes a bit of mindfulness, practice and consistency to stretch properly.
Be consistent and try out these pectoral stretches a few times each day to really feel the difference it can make!
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Dr. Kim Nguyen, D.C.