Chronic Neck Pain and Pectoralis Minor


chronic neck pain and forward head postureChronic neck pain can occur for so many reasons. In the last week or two writing about forward head posture and the cervical spine I have covered a number of the issues that can lead to chronic neck pain. Today we will look at pectoralis minor, a muscle that is always in the mix when it comes to poor posture and pain.

Pectoralis minor is a small muscle in the front of the body attaching from the coracoid process at the front of the shoulder back to the 3rd, 4th and 5th rib. Its function is to pull the shoulder blade forward and down though it can also elevate the rib cage in certain actions.

Chronic neck pain that results from round shouldered posture is likely to involve pectoralis minor muscles that are short and tight pulling the shoulder blade too far forward and down. There are a lot of other types of pain that can be associated with this muscle as well.

chronic neck pain and pectoralis minor        chronic neck pain and pectoralis minor

Dysfunction in the pectoralis minor can cause local pain at the site of the muscle. It can also be connected to pain between the shoulder blades most often in the rhomboid muscles. Tight pectoralis muscles can also impinge on nerves creating pain, tingling or numbness running down to the forearm, wrist and hand.

Chronic neck pain due to forward head posture involves the cervical spine moving past the natural support that comes with a well aligned spine. As the head moves forward it becomes exponentially heavier and takes other parts of the skeleton with it. As a result muscles at the front of the body need to begin holding up the head.

It might be subtle but you should be able to feel pectoralis minor shorten as your head moves forward. Place your hand in the area of pectoralis minor and move your head and neck forward and back. Moving the head forward will ultimately take the head of the arm bones and even shoulder blades with it. As this happens pectoralis minor shortens.

In the yoga practice a tight pectoralis minor rears its head most often in the transition from plank to chaturanga. I am constantly teaching about the need to keep the head of the arm bones back in this transition. When pectoralis minor is tight the shoulder blade comes forward and down way too much as the muscles back, most specifically the lower trapezius muscles, fail to engage in opposition to keep the shoulder blades on the back.

There is always chicken and egg stuff in play in these discussions. Does the head moving forward shorten the pectoralis minor, or does the short pectoralis minor pull the head forward. Either way, or it is likely a mix of both, the head coming forward and short tight pectoral muscles can lead to chronic neck pain.

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51 Years Young
The angle of the pelvis: the femoral neck.
8 Comments
  1. Good post…Pain is an unpleasant conscious experience that emerges from the brain when the sum of all the available information suggests that you need to protect a particular part of your body. When a health illness or condition is chronic it means it is long-lasting. visit our site for good tertments for Back Pain, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Thyroid, chronic pain, sciatica, whiplash, headaches & nutritional disorders. http://www.drbastomski.com/

  2. I wish that you offered some suggestions when you post these specific issues. This seems to be exactly my problem with neck pain but I don’t know what to do to make it better. Obviously you often explain how to walk in alignment and correct posture but is there something specific that can help change this situation?
    Thanks for all your blogs. They are always wake-up calls.

      • I agree with Andrea; I find your blog posts helpful, but I always wish for more suggestions at the end on what to actually DO about the issue! I have a significant amount of chronic neck tension and try to avoid forward head posture, but the problem seems to persist despite my best efforts.

  3. I agree with the above comments about wanting more info on corrective measures. Pec Major is relatively easy to stretch but Pec Minor is much harder. In fact it’s listed by some as one of the 5 muscles that can’t be stretched. I’m interested in what suggestions you have so I can pass them along to my clients.

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