We have two pectoralis muscles, pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. These two muscles together are commonly referred to as your “pecs”. Pectoralis major is a big muscle in your chest that often gets a lot of attention at the gym. If you work out your pecs or if you just sit in front of a computer all day, you should be stretching your pecs.
How to stretch your pecs:
To really stretch the pecs well you are going to need to do three different stretches. Find a door and put your arm at about 120 degrees up the frame, then turn your body away from your hand/arm, hold this for seven breaths in and out. This will get the lower fibers of your pectoralis major muscle. Now do the same thing at 90 degrees and again at 75 degrees, these respectively get your middle fibers and your upper fibers. When you are doing this stretch make sure that the palm of your hand is flat on the wall. This helps to keep you from rotating your arm in weird ways. Also make sure that you move your feet as you switch from one stretch to the next. Your body weight should be supported by your feet not the arm you are trying to stretch. Most people have done the door frame stretch at 90 degrees. I am going to encourage you to take this stretch to the next level and get the whole thing.
Referral pattern for the pecs:
All muscles have a pain referral pattern. The referral pattern for pectoralis major and minor can look like C6, C7, and/or C8 radiculopathy. It can also get mistaken for angina pectoris (a chest pain caused by decreased blood flow to the heart). If your pecs are really tight, they can cause bilateral or unilateral numbness and tingling into your hands when you sleep.
General rules for stretching:
You should hold a stretch for seven big breaths in and out. You should focus on expanding the muscle while you breath in (pretend your muscle is a balloon and that you are blowing it up as you breath in) and relax into a fuller stretch as you breath out. Do not force yourself into a fuller stretch on the exhale, just relax into it if you can. Do not bounce or bob through a stretch, instead just hold the position.
When stretching a muscle it is important to get the whole muscle so that it can function optimally. If this stretch is painful for any reason, seek help from your chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist.