A pectoral tear is an extremely painful injury to the chest wall and upper arm of athletes. It is typically seen in bodybuilders and weightlifters who notice severe pain and a tearing sensation during a bench press or other weightlifting motion. It can also be seen in athletes of contact and collision sports, such as football players, when their arms are traumatically forced out and away from their bodies.

Tests for a pectoral tear

Diagnosis by a sports medicine physician is usually fairly straightforward. Physical examination soon after the injury will reveal a defect in the upper chest wall as well as significant swelling and bruising. The athlete will often have pain when the physician turns or pulls the arm away from the body. The athlete usually has a tremendous amount of pain and weakness trying to internally rotate the shoulder across the body or pull the arm down by his side against resistance. X-rays are usually normal. An MRI can be helpful to determine the location of the injury, meaning whether or not the tear is within the muscle belly of the pectoralis major, at the junction between the muscle and tendon, or the tendon is pulled off of the bone.

Treatment of a partial tear or muscle injury

Partial tears of the pectoralis tendon or tears within the muscle belly of the pectoralis major can be treated without surgery. Rest and use of a sling for comfort can help the injury heal. Return to activities of daily living is usually successful, although many patients with these injuries still complain of weakness months and years after the injury occurs. Complete tears of the tendon off of bone are usually treated with surgical repair. The surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. A small incision is made on the upper arm where the tendon attaches. Sutures are placed within the tendon, and the sutures are pulled down to anchors placed in bone where the tendon attaches. As with most tendon repairs, the surgeon has to get the repaired tendon to heal in that position. Therefore, the athlete is kept in a sling for several weeks to protect the repair.

Also read:
Pectoral Tendon Injuries

Pectoral tear causing shoulder pain

Recovery and return to sports

Physical therapy after surgery is a lengthy process. Initially the goal is to gently increase shoulder range of motion without putting too much stress on the repair. Any strengthening of the pectoralis major muscle is avoided initially to prevent stress on the tendon. As the healing progresses over many weeks, full motion is restored and strengthening is gradually increased. Weight lifting and sports are usually avoided for the first few months after surgery. As the tendon heals and motion of the shoulder is restored, certain weightlifting movements are gradually started. Full return to weights and sports can take 4 to 6 months, if not longer.

I want to help you! Please take a few seconds to share the biggest challenge or struggle you’re facing with your injury! Click here!

Recommended Products and Resources
Click here to go to Dr. David Geier’s Amazon Influencer store!
Due to a large number of questions I have received over the years asking about products for health, injuries, performance, and other areas of sports, exercise, work and life, I have created an Amazon Influencer page. While this information and these products are not intended to treat any specific injury or illness you have, they are products I use personally, have used or have tried, or I have recommended to others. THE SITE MAY OFFER HEALTH, FITNESS, NUTRITIONAL AND OTHER SUCH INFORMATION, BUT SUCH INFORMATION IS DESIGNED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE CONTENT DOES NOT AND IS NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY MEDICAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. THE SITE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ACTIONS OR INACTION ON A USER’S PART BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT IS PRESENTED ON THE SITE. Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.