The pectoralis muscle is a large muscle that is located in front of your chest and helps to move your shoulder forwards and across your chest. The pectoralis muscle is divided into the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major muscle is the larger muscle and helps to push the arms in front of the body.
The pectoralis major muscle or its tendon that gets attached to the arm bone (the humerus) can rupture. This is known as a “pec rupture,” or a pectoralis major muscle rupture. It is quite rare and occurs only in men between the age of 20 and 50 years. Pectoralis muscle rupture may lead to partial or complete tear of the muscle. Partial ruptures are less common and complete rupture occurs when the tendinous attachment of the muscle to the bone tears.
Torn pectoral muscles are most often caused by forceful activities such as weightlifting, especially during a bench press exercise. The condition might also result from sports such as football, wrestling, rugby, and other traumatic accidents or injuries. These injuries are more likely to occur in patients who use steroid medication.
When the pectoralis muscle ruptures, you will have sudden severe pain and a tearing sensation in the chest. You may also have pain in the upper arm, weakness, bruising, and a dimpling, or pocket formation above the arm pit.
Initial treatment includes application of ice and immobilization of the shoulder, arm and chest. Surgery is often required for complete tears of the pectoralis muscle tendon. Surgery is usually not considered for partial tears, tears within the muscle, or in elderly and low-demand patients. The torn tendon is repaired in the early period following the injury to minimize muscle atrophy and scarring. Patients who undergo surgical repair have a good chance of returning to high-level sports and activities. During the repair, large sutures are placed in the torn tendon and then these sutures are secured to the arm bone with either holes in the bone or anchors inserted in the bone.
Pectoralis muscle rupture can be prevented by following certain instructions on proper bench press technique. For proper bench press technique, it is important to limit the distance to which the bar is lowered, and also narrowing the grip of the hands to the bar.