Symptoms of a strained pectoral muscle

Updated February 21, 2017

A strained pectoral muscle is actually a slight tear in the chest muscles. It happens when the muscle is stretched too far and is typically experienced by people who exercise without properly warming up. You may not feel any pain when you strain your chest muscles. That comes later, once you begin to cool down and the adrenalin is no longer pumping.

Symptoms of Pulled or Strained Pectoral

Depending on how severe the pectoral strain is, you can experience swelling and bruising. The most obvious symptom is that your chest will feel sore and tender. It may hurt in your chest when you move your arms, because the pectoral muscles help move the arms. Because a strain is only minor tearing, it's not a major worry. Most strenuous workouts result in the same sort of tearing of the muscle.

Grading the Strain

There is a method for grading the severity of the muscle strain. Grade 1 causes minor discomfort but doesn't hinder your activity. Grade 2 causes more discomfort and can begin to limit your activity. You may also find some swelling and bruising. Grade 3 causes a lot of pain, swelling and bruising.

Treating the Strain

To recover from a muscle strain, your body needs rest. Stop exercising and allow the body to repair itself. Make sure your diet has enough protein in it so that the building blocks are there to repair the torn muscles.

Treating the Swelling and Pain

If you experience swelling, place an ice pack on the swollen area 15 minutes at a time. You don't even have to wait for the swelling to appear; if you can feel the muscle strain, start applying the ice pack. Anti-inflammatories will also help reduce swelling in the area and can help reduce pain.


Don't overexert yourself during exercise, particularly if you are new to exercising or coming back after a break. Warm up your muscles before you work out to get the blood flowing to the muscle. Continue working out because the stronger a muscle is, the less likely it is to be injured.

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About the Author

James Rada, Jr. was a newspaper reporter for eight years and earned 23 awards from the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association, Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Maryland State Teachers’ Association and CNHI. He also worked for 12 years as a marketing communications writer, earning a Print Copywriter of the Year Award from the Utah Ad Federation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.