How to treat a torn pectoral muscle

Written by denise stern
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The pectoral, or chest muscle, is prone to injury, especially among weightlifters, bodybuilders and those engaged in contact sports. Knowing the warning signs and understanding the basics of first aid for a torn pectoral muscle can save a lot of anguish and medical expense in the long run. Torn muscle fibres are very painful. Signs of a torn muscle in the pectoral region might include pain in the chest, bruising, swelling and a burning sensation. Loss of movement or lifting power are also classic signs of a torn chest muscle.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Stop what you're doing! If you're lifting weights, put them down! Don't try to "work through the burn" or chant the "No pain, no gain" mantra. A torn muscle might make a popping sound, or burn profusely. Lifting power is extremely diminished, as is an inability to move the arm or arms, horizontally.

  2. 2

    Treat the muscle tear injury with rest and applications of heat and ice. Place an ice pack in a washcloth or dishtowel to prevent direct contact with the skin. Leave the ice on for about 15 to 20 minutes. Follow with an application of heat from a towel warmed in the microwave, or a heating pad set on low.

  3. 3

    Limit movement. Avoid using the arm or shoulder on the injured side. Resting the torn muscle is essential for proper healing.

  4. 4

    If the tear is severe and the above methods don't provide any relief, a visit to your doctor may be necessary. In some cases, surgery is necessary to repair a torn pectoral muscle.

  5. 5

    Even following surgery, full use of the injured chest muscle may be limited and regaining full strength may take months or even years to achieve. In some cases, rehabilitation of the injured area is a painful and lengthy process that may last several months.

Tips and warnings

  • Never overload your weights without slowly working up to what your muscles can handle.
  • If symptoms of a torn pectoral muscle persist after heat/cold applications, or tingling, numbness or loss of motion is experienced for more than a couple of days, schedule a visit with a doctor. Adopting a wait and see attitude may cause a longer healing process or lead to surgery that could have been prevented.

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