Commonwealth Orthopaedics: Pectoralis Muscle

12.06.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

To the dismay of many, Brian Orakpo has been recovering from a torn pectoral muscle for much of the 2012 season. The Redskins star outside linebacker tore his left pectoral during a game against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2 of the regular season. Orakpo's 2011 season was cut short with a similar injury as well. 

Pectoralis Muscles
The pectoralis (pec) muscles are large, highly visible muscles located on each side of the chest. The pectoralis major is a thick, fan-shaped muscle, situated at the chest (anterior) of the human body. It makes up the bulk of the chest muscles in the male and lies under the breast in the female. 

Underneath the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor, a thin, triangular muscle.

Their primary job is to help the shoulders and arms move and lift. When you perform a push-up or chest fly, you are activating the pecs. Because they are among the strongest muscles in the body, they are less likely to be strained (pulled), but it can happen. The pectoralis major muscle, or most commonly its tendon that attaches to the arm bone (the humerus), can rupture. Pectoralis major ruptures are uncommon injuries that occur almost exclusively in men between the ages of 20 to 50. While partial tears can occur, these are less common, and usually a complete rupture of the tendinous attachment of the muscle to the bone occurs.

How does a pectoralis major muscle rupture occur?
These injuries generally occur during forceful activities. Almost half of all pectoralis major ruptures occur during weightlifting, particularly during a bench press maneuver. Other causes of a pectoralis major rupture include football (blocking), wrestling, rugby, and other traumatic injuries.

What are the symptoms?
- Severe pain in the chest area
- Swelling, bruising (may extend into the shoulder and upper arm in severe cases)
- Loss of strength, particularly when lifting
- Difficulty in moving the arm across the chest

What is the treatment for a Pectoralis Muscle Rupture?
Surgery is most often recommended for complete tears of the pectoralis muscle tendon. Patients who have partial tears, tears within the muscle, or elderly and low-demand patients, may be able to avoid surgical treatment.

By repairing the torn tendon, patients have a good chance at returning to high-level sports and activities. Ideally the repair is performed in the early period following the injury. The repair is performed by placing large sutures in the torn tendon, and then securing these sutures to the arm bone with either holes in the bone or anchors inserted in the bone.

Thomas Klein, MD; Commonwealth Orthopaedics


Commonwealth Orthopaedics has teamed up with the Redskins as a new health and wellness partner.  Click here for more information.

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