Pectoralis major muscle pain & trigger points

A tight pectoralis major muscle that contains trigger or tender points may give you pain in your chest or shoulder.

Additionally, if this muscle is too tight it fosters a round shouldered posture.

Especially in men it is well known and popular as it, if well trained, gives them a strong looking front.

1. Pain patterns and symptoms of the Pectoralis muscle

1.1 Pain patterns

Trigger points in this muscle – shown as “Xs” in the picture under “Attachment points” – can send pain to the red marked areas displayed below.

The deeper the colour, the more prone it is to experience pain in the respective area when trigger points in the pectoralis major are present.

The points X1 and X2 mainly give you a painful shoulder, whereas the other points send pain mainly to the chest itself, and to the upper and inner side of your forearm.

This muscle can contribute to…


1.2 Impaired or painful movements

A very tight pectoralis major will definitely contribute to an impaired flexibility in your shoulder – e.g. when reaching behind – as it pulls the whole system forwards and keeps it there.

2. Pectoralis major muscle attachment points

From the outside the pectoralis major looks like one big muscle.

But actually it consists of three parts.

Every one of the three parts has its own and separate origin, while all the muscle fibers fuse together at the same spot, namely at the upper side of your arm pit –.

The three parts are named after the location of their origin.

  • Clavicular part – comes from your collarbone/clavicle –
  • Sternal part – comes from your breast bone/sternum –
  • Costal part – comes from your ribs/costal = ribs – .

3. Function of the Pectoralis major muscle

This muscle has many functions.

As a whole, it adducts the arm and rotates the shoulder inwardly.

The lower/costal fibers can pull down the shoulder joint, whereas the upper/clavicular fibers can elevate/raise the arm in front of you.

Furthermore, the muscle protracts the shoulder.


Shoulder neutral


Depression at the shoulder


Flexion at the shoulder


Adduction at the shoulder


Medial rotation at the shoulder


Protraction at the shoulder

4. Trigger point activation

If you are a desk criminal that spends hours and hours in front of your computer or writing, you may get issues with this muscle.

Why? Because you are prone to be working in a round shouldered position where your pectoralis is constantly contracted and your shoulder rotated inwardly, respectively.

This means that the muscle will be constantly in a “shortened” position, which eventually may lead to tender and trigger points.

On the other hand you can overstress it with too much exercise or activities that you are not used to.

Doing excessive chest workouts at the gym can be a reason for trouble in this muscle.

Yes, chest workouts are fun and the results can look awesome, but I recommend balancing it.

Give yourself also some rest and keep up your shoulder mobility.

5. Pectoralis major muscle palpation

To feel this muscle, pinch the front of your arm pit and then feel the muscle from your collarbone to your breast bone and your rips, all fusing together at your arm pit.

6. Self-massage of the Pectoralis major muscle

You can massage this muscle best with a massage ball or with your fingers.

If you use the latter, pay attention not to strain them, as they are delicate “tools”.

6.1 Self-massage with a ball

  • Place the ball on your chest and lean against a wall.
  • Roll over the muscle and massage each tender spot with slow strokes.
  • Make sure to inspect the whole area of the muscle. From right next to your sternum all the way out to your arm pit.
  • Also do not forget to include the lower part of the chest – not shown in the pictures –

6.2 Self-massage with your fingers

Your hands come in handy especially at the outer part of your pectoralis as you can pinch its fibers and work them extremely precise.

Here, it is important to inspect the whole area from right next to your nipple all the way up to your arm pit.

Precise massage

  • Pinch the muscle between your fingers and search for tender areas.
  • Roll every point a couple of times between your fingers.

Pressure-motion technique

  • Again, search for tender points.
  • The most painful ones are usually located towards your arm pit.
  • If you find one, stay there.
  • Then move your arm in various directions.
  • Concentrate on the most painful ranges of motion.
  • Usually you encounter them when bringing your arm behind your body and rotating your shoulder outwards.

Thank you for visiting my website. I hope my information helps you.


  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print