Sitting in front of a computer or performing in repetitive activities such as weightlifting or volleyball can lead to tight chest muscles that may impair an individual’s posture and function. The pectoralis muscles, both major and minor, attach at the sternum (breastbone) and to the bones of the shoulder and upper arm. The pectoralis major is a strong, fan-shaped muscle that begins at the clavicle and sternum to insert onto the humerus. This muscle works to flex or medially rotate the arm at the shoulder joint. It also plays an important role as an accessory breathing muscle to help with inspiration. The pectoralis minor begins from the third through fifth ribs and extends diagonally up the chest to attach to the scapula. It helps draw the scapula forward and downward. Both of these muscles work together to allow you to horizontally adduct your shoulders to bring it in and across your body. Tight chest muscles may lead to a decreased range of motion and difficulty with performing daily activities that involve lifting or pushing. Read below to learn five effective stretches to release tension in the chest muscles.
Stand beside a door frame or corner of a wall. Keeping your back straight and your inner core engaged, bring your arm up against the wall with the elbow and shoulder bent at 90 degrees. With the arm planted on the wall, draw your opposite shoulder back followed by your torso in a straight line. Keep the back straight and core engaged. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side 2 times per day.
Recent research has shown that nearly 40% of 7 to 18 year old baseball players endure elbow and shoulder pain during their baseball season. Nearly half of these injured players report their ongoing participation despite having pain. A recent epidemiological study of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries in athletes 17 to 20 years old reported the number of UCL reconstructions has increased dramatically for this age group. Early education and detection of elbow injuries in throwing sports may help reduce the number of overuse injuries from developing.
“Little league elbow,” or known as medial epicondyle apophysitis, is most commonly found in young throwers. Sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, or golf, can result in this overuse injury to the growth plate on the inside of the elbow. Repeated stress to the growth plates may cause inflammation and lead to pain or swelling. Serious injury may even result in separation of the growth plate from the rest of the bone. Players may also experience a reduced range of motion and a decreased ability to throw hard or far. A child experiencing any symptoms involving their arm should cease activity and see a pediatric specialist or their family physician. X-rays may be required to determine the extent of damage.
Prevention begins with identifying causative factors early in the season and adhering to strict guidelines such as the pitch count for young players and the duration of participation in a given year. Total body conditioning that involves strengthening the hip, back, and legs may help reduce the strain on the athlete’s arms. See below for exercises on how to stretch and strengthen the forearm.