Sports Rehabilitation for Chest Muscle Strains

bench press

Sports Rehabilitation and chest muscle pulls are common to sports where there is hard contact to the upper body such as hockey, football, weightlifters, boxers, skiers and wrestlers.

Pectoral-Anatomy1The chest or pectoral muscles consist of two muscle groups the pectorialis major and minor. These muscles function to assist with movements of the shoulder blade and shoulder (especially pushing motion and bringing the arm across the body).

Tears or strains to these muscles do range from small partial tears to complete ruptures. The majority of pectoral strains due to sports mostly fall into the category of slight to moderate; complete ruptures are rare.

In this article I will be discussing causes, signs, contributing factors, sports rehabilitation and prevention of this injury.


The injury occurs with a sudden, strong impact through the muscle and tendon beyond its capacity. For example, performing a bench press with extremely heavy weight can exert tremendous overload on the muscle. Pectoral strains can also occur over time due to repetitive or prolonged activity exerting stress within the muscle. Pectoral strains over time more commonly occur in the older athlete especially when there is hastened or improper warm up.

Signs and Symptoms

Pulled chest muscles can be quite painful from the tightness (spasm) and burning sensation that develops. At times the athlete may experience radiating pain through the upper arm resulting in limited mobility  of shoulder and weakness. Bruising, hematoma, swelling and tenderness is noted in the muscle especially where a muscle mass can be palpated.

The pain associated with a pectoral strain is usually starts off as an ache but increases to sharper pain with increased activity. This is one good reason to consult with a sports rehabilitation specialist.

Contributing Factors

bad-benchThere are several factors where athletes are vulnerable to this type of injury (1) fatigue (2) poor technique in weight lifting especially in performing chest press (3) poor throwing technique for a pitcher in baseball or quarterback in football (4) poor posture (5) improper warm up (6) weakness of chest or shoulder muscles(especially rotator cuff) (6) excessive or improper training and (9) not allowing enough recovery time if previously injured.

Sports Rehabilitation

The athlete should apply the R.I.C.E. principles (rest, ice, compression & elevation) for at least 2 days to start the process of reducing swelling and inflammation. Ice should be applied several times per day for periods of 10-15 minutes. Once the pain has subsided it is recommended you make an appointment with a sports rehabilitation expert.

The sports rehabilitation specialist starts with the use of modalities to accelerate the healing. Ultrasound is utilized to soothe irritated tissue; electrical stimulation is needed to diminish swelling and soften tissue and cold laser to decrease bruising and hematoma. Soft tissue massage is often used to prevent scar tissue formation. The therapist will implement a progressive exercise program to improve flexibility, strength and posture. Shoulder range of motion and strengthening exercises must be performed. Using an Upper Body Ergometer (bicycle for the arms) will start to being back the endurance lost. The sports rehabilitation specialist should write up a home program and go over the do’s and don’ts of this injury.


Chest workoutThe best ways to avoid this injury is to get familiar with proper warm up and stretching; learn proper weight training techniques and never increase the intensity, duration or frequency of your exercise program aggressively. My best advise to you is if you have any questions or doubts always consult and communicate with your sports rehabilitation specialist.