A chest muscle tear or pec tear can potentially limit not only your workouts and sporting activities, but also your capacity to perform everyday activities. Rehab stretch and strengthening exercises for a pectoral tear increases the likelihood your injury will heal properly so you regain near-normal strength and range of motion of your upper body.
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Refrain from doing any activity that aggravates your tear immediately after the incident. Place an ice pack on the injury and seek advanced care before you even begin stretching and strengthening your chest muscles. Once the pain and swelling of your injury have been tremendously reduced, begin exercises for a pec tear under the guidance your physical therapist. You may not be able to begin exercises for one to three weeks, depending on the extent of your injury.
Warm up before your rehab exercises. Begin each session with a hot pack placed over your injury for 10 minutes. Heat increases blood circulation and the temperature of the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your injury so they are more elastic and plastic. This means you can stretch and strengthen your tissues with less pain, increasing the likelihood you will do your rehab exercises and continue with your recovery program. Then, walk slowly on a treadmill machine or use an elliptical machine set on no resistance. Focus on gradually moving your arms and shoulders through a greater range of motion instead of walking faster; the primary function of your pecs is to flex your shoulder joints, drawing your arm in front of your body.
Perform stretching exercises for a pectoral tear to help scar tissue align properly and increase the flexibility of your injured muscle. Stretches are classified as passive or active. In passive stretches, you relax as the weight of your body, an ankle weight or the weight of someone pushing on you stretches your pectorals. Active stretches are those you actually do by physically pulling or pushing on your body to stretch your pecs. Passive stretches are done only one time per session, but are held for up to 15 consecutive minutes. Begin passive stretches with only five minutes, increasing the duration by five minutes during subsequent sessions. Perform active stretches for two to four repetitions per stretching session. Hold each active stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
Moving your arm away from your chest stretches your pectoral muscles. To perform a passive stretch, simply lie flat on your back, then raise the arm with the injured muscle above your head so it is in a straight line with your body. For an active stretch, stand near the hinge of a doorway. Grasp the hinge using the arm of your injured muscle. Rotate your hips away from the hinge, stretching your recovering pectoral muscle.
Strengthening exercises come later in the rehab program once you can move your arm without causing unnecessary damage. Wrist weights, light dumbbells and low tensioned exercise bands are generally used for shoulder flexion exercises to slowly improve the strength of your pectoral muscles after a tear. Perform three sets of 15 repetitions of strengthening exercises. Slowly increase the resistance depending on your rate of progress. Muscles can take six weeks to six months to regain 90 percent of their normal strength.
Chest Presses and Chest Flies
Chest presses and chest flies are the best exercises to begin a pectoral strengthening rehab program; hold 1 or 2 pound dumbbells in each hand. Perform chest presses by lying flat on your back on an exercise bench and raising the dumbbells directly above the center of your chest; your palms should be facing away from you. Lower the dumbbells toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows bent out to the side. Press the dumbbells back up for one repetition and repeat for one set. Rest your muscles for one minute then lie back down again; this time, make your palms face each other. Lower the dumbbells by opening your arms and bending your elbows as if to welcome somebody with a hug. Flex your shoulders to bring the dumbbells back over your chest and repeat for one set.
Place a cold pack over your pecs after each rehab session of exercises to reduce new swelling that may result from your routine, enhancing your recovery. Keep the ice pack on the area for 15 minutes.
- “Examination of Musculoskeletal Injuries”; Sandra Shultz, Ph.D., Peggy Houglum, Ph.D., and David Perrin, Ph.D.; 2005
- “Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries”; Peggy Houglum, Ph.D.; 2005