Neurokinetic Therapy® Blog

The Pectoralis Minor, King of Compensation

The pectoralis minor is a muscle that becomes easily shortened and tight due to many factors, including rounded shoulder posture, glenohumeral joint dysfunction,breathing dysfunction, and a variety of compensation patterns. It sits on top of the brachial plexus, and can therefore contribute to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The pectoralis minor is located in an area of the shoulder with many other muscles, including the pectoralis major, biceps, deltoids, coracobrachialis, subscapularis, serratus anterior, and the latissimus dorsi. I find that clusters of muscles like this often can become dysfunctional due to poor biomechanics. This can lead to adhesions, facilitation/inhibition, and synergistic dominance. The pectoralis minor is often the overactive muscle in these compensation patterns.

Rounded shoulder posture and forward head posture will cause the pectoralis minor to shorten. This action is called protraction and is opposed by the muscles of retraction.  These include the middle trapezius and the rhomboids. Commonly the pectoralis minor becomes facilitated and the middle trapezius becomes inhibited. Release of the pectoralis minor followed by strengthening of the middle trapezius can be very effective in these cases. Because the pectoralis minor rounds the shoulder, it is opposed by the latissimus dorsi which moves the shoulder back and down. Again, release of the  pectoralis minor followed by strengthening of the latissimus dorsi can be very effective.


    The pectoralis minor is a downward rotator of the scapula and oftentimes involved in glenohumeral dysfunction.  If it is facilitated, it can inhibit the serratus anterior, which contributes to upward rotation of the scapula. This can lead to impingement syndrome and sometimes winging of the scapula. The resultant scapular instability greatly contributes to shoulder joint dysfunction.

 

The pectoralis minor is also an internal rotator of the humerus. When facilitated it can inhibit the external rotators of the humerus, including the long head of the biceps, the posterior deltoid, and the infraspinatus. A common  shoulder injury that occurs from this is that the long head of the biceps comes out of its groove and moves medially towards the short head of the biceps. Release of the pectoralis minor followed by relocation of the long head of the biceps tendon is very effective in these cases. http://youtu.be/vDUI4IR8OzY

The pectoralis minor also contributes to kinetic chain dysfunctions. For example, in the front line, the pectoralis minor often inhibits the psoas. In the diagonal line, it can inhibit the contralateral psoas. This is a factor in gait dysfunction. Also in gait it can inhibit the backward swing motion of the contralateral arm and the backward swing of the ipsilateral leg. Right thoracic rotation can be inhibited by the right pectoralis minor because of its contribution to internal rotation.

Lastly, the pectoralis minor can contribute to breathing pattern dysfunctions. People who are “chest breathers”, commonly have facilitated pectoralis minors and scalenes, which elevate the rib cage. These are opposed by the quadratus lumborum, which   depress the rib cage. If the QLs become inhibited, the possibility of lower back pain greatly increases. Release of the pectoralis minor followed by strengthening of the QL not only can relieve lower back pain, but also can help to repattern faulty     respiratory mechanics.

The pectoralis minor is a short and powerful muscle that can frequently become facilitated and contributed to a host of compensation patterns. Don’t forget this muscle when treating neck pain, shoulder pain, arm and hand pain, hip and leg pain, and breathing pattern dysfunctions.

42 Responses

  1. I find this a lot.

  2. Esther

    Hi! I have heard so many amazing things about you David. I have a friend & training partner who could use this kind of help. Is there anyone in the greater San Diego area that you would recommend him see?
    Thank you!
    es

  3. Raihan

    Hi!

    It was great reading your article. I am having tightness in which i guess is the pectoral minor muscle in the chest and also experiencing tingling, numbness and other sensations at the left arm. My Doctor has checked me for diabetes, spine problem (cervical spine xray) and also performed a nerve conduction study and nothing was found. But the tightness in the lower left chest cover and the tingling, numbness and burning sensation in the left arm are still there.

    Is it something to do with the pectoral muscle?
    Many thanks!

    • neurokinetictherapy

      Probably, but I don’t assess over the Internet

  4. Andrew C

    Great article,
    my right pec minor is tight and strong and my right rear delt is weak, also my left QL tweaks very easily.
    Thanks for the article, I will be taking the advice given.

  5. Ibragim

    Hi,
    David,what would you recommend to do first – to do stretching for internal/external rotation of the shoulders or to stretch pec minor (in my case both muscle groups are tight) ?
    Thanks for the article!

    • neurokinetictherapy

      I can’t recommend anything without seeing you.

  6. josh

    Good stuff, I’m into it, but are you sure pec minor does medial rotation of the glenohumeral joint (“internal rotation of the humerus)? It doesn’t attach to the humerus… is it a “fascial thing”? Or an error? Thanks so much

    • neurokinetictherapy

      Try protracting your shoulder without your humerus internally rotating.

      • josh

        That’s what I thought…and that’s how I tried to explain it as I was talking myself through it. So it IS a “fascial thing” so to speak.

        • neurokinetictherapy

          Yes, functional anatomy

  7. paxton

    Can tight pec minor cause ac joint pain , tenderness

    • neurokinetictherapy

      I can’t assess without seeing you

  8. No I got the clear idea of Pectoralis Minor. Thanks for sharing this valuable article free. Keep going.

  9. Chris

    how can the pec minor be an internal rotator of the humerus without a humeral attachment?

    • neurokinetictherapy

      Try throwing a ball

  10. Alfiya

    Hii.. a really informative article. But pectoralis minor facilitation causing inhibition of psoas, is not very clearly understood by me. Could u explain it.
    Thanks

    • neurokinetictherapy

      Take a class in NKT

  11. staffan

    “Because the pectoralis minor rounds the shoulder, it is opposed by the latissimus dorsi which moves the shoulder back and down”

    Latissimus dorsi sometimes, but rarely, attaches to the inferior part of scapula. it attaches to crista tubercoli minoris and it abducts,extends and medially rotates the arm. It doesnt retract your shoulder, it affects the glenohumeral joint only.

    Trapezius on the other hand retracts, externally rotates the shoulder and elevates it. And this is the muscle that usually suffers from a rounded shoulder ( pars transversa and pars descendens)

    • neurokinetictherapy

      The lat depresses the scapula via the humerus.

  12. chantal

    Great article! Thanks, David!!

  13. Bill

    Your replies to people’s comments are extremely helpful

  14. Sarah

    So happy I found this! I’m a student who commutes four hours a day and spends vast amounts of time in front of a computer….somehow the whole diagnoses of carpal tunnel never sit right with me. There was talk of surgery but no one was paying attention to the fact that my rhomboids, lats, and chest were all sore. How could they look at surgery as an option while ignoring such other symptoms! Making an appt with a massage therapist and a physiotherapist ASAP. Thank You!

  15. Jon

    Is there anyone in the uk, maybe Scotland I could see or even you could recommend? My left pec seems to get tight and engages alot more than my right even when doing overhead pressing, pull downs and bicep curls. I would consider surgery to get it fixed as i have seen many physios but none have solved the problem – they all tried to strenghen my rotator cuffs and back muscles, but this did not work.

    Any help would be great

  16. Gustav

    Great stuff!!

    Im trying to look for answers with specialists but nobody seems too be able to tell whats wrong…
    The day after a juicy chestworkout i did som strict presses overhead and realized ive lost about 80% strenght in my shoulder. Never felt any pain at all. Just plain powerloss. Bicepscurls and/or lifting almost any weight with straight arm upwards is nearly impossible. It feels like it could be something with the biceps long or short or maybe tight pec minor?

  17. Vincent

    hi, i have no sensation in my right chess. What i mean by that is i can’t feel the muscle activating precisely the right pectoralis major. I am a bodybuilder and when i started lifting i had no issues with my whole chest. Then i stopped lifting for sometime and did it at a on and off rhythm. Then i realised that my right shoulder was very painful when i lifted, and i noticed a small bump. it’s only 2 years later that i got checked and did an x ray which showed my AC joint issue. Do you think thats why i can’t feel my chest muscle on the right side? because it feels like my front right deltoids and right trapezius muscle are taking all the tension from the chest. Yes i do have a good form and i don’t exagerate the weights.

    Thank you for reading this.

    • neurokinetictherapy

      Get assessed, I cannot help without seeing you.

  18. Mounir Fahim

    Amazing article. It’s incredible information you’re sharing here, do you happen to have any books on this kind of information??

    • neurokinetictherapy

      Yes, NeuroKinetic Therapy

      • Grade A stuff. I’m uneqnstiouably in your debt.

  19. LT

    I have pain/tightness down my right arm/fingers, around my pec minor, pec major and down the side of my right torso is very tight. Also, tight right thigh and hip flexor/psoas. Your article has struck a cord with me. I’m from Sydney, Australia and am having trouble finding someone who has the same expertise as you. Do you know of anyone in Sydney, Australia, or anywhere else in Australia?

  20. Sarah

    I’m about to have part of my pec minor removed from the corticoid process, how will it effect my arm movement? I’ve recently had the top surgery and the.removal of a rib scalene muscle and something else I had type 4 and type 5

    • neurokinetictherapy

      This is not my area of expertise.

  21. Linda

    Yes I have all this following corrective surgery for bilateral hip dysplasia and spinal stenosis with slight permanent damage to 4/5 nerve. Emg and MRI show slight stenosis forming on 4/5 nerve. Releasing the pec minor and major as well as teres major and minor has been key to strengthening the contralateral psoas which was in constant state of spasm following replacement. Treating both sij dysfunction and thoracic outlet syndrome has been beneficial.,Always look at the whole body! And for patient “do your homework”!

  22. Hi David
    Thanks so much for posting this. As a patient i have found I have to be really invested in my own recovery and most medical professionals are over worked and underpaid so more complex problems (i have frozen shoulder-but on the mend thanks to people like you allowing me to become more informed) and this was the final silver bullet (as osteopath diagnozed pec major being in spasm but completely pec minor) despite the injury history which i now know thanks to you would have done major tearing to the pec minor. THANK YOU SO MUCH off to find an NKT thanks agin

  23. None in Canada….what health field would most closely have this skill set Osteo? Kinesiologist? seeing a gifted RMT, accupunture Osteo in training
    I dont like ot send people like him internet info unless I am very certian i wont offend

    • neurokinetictherapy

      go to nktdirectory.net

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