Spending hours hunched over your desk can affect posture and more, making your body look older than it is. Muscles and tissues will shorten and tighten, causing them to be less flexible. This is true for the chest muscles, including the pectoralis minor, which attaches to the front of your shoulder and to your larger chest muscle, the pectoralis major. Get moving -- take regular breaks from sitting to do some simple stretches that will loosen a tight pectoralis minor.
Since the pec minor is connected to the pec major and your shoulder, it is difficult and impractical to isolate that muscle during a stretch. The pec minor is part of the arm lines that connect your fingers and hands to your chest and sternum, says massage therapist Thomas Myers, author of "Anatomy Trains." These lines connect your body parts through a series of connective tissues, nerves and blood vessels. Stretching all of your chest muscles and shoulders together, therefore, will effectively stretch the pec minor.
Doorway Chest Stretch
Stretch your pec minor in any office or home with a standard doorway. Stand between a doorway with one foot about 1 foot in front of you, and put both forearms and elbows against the doorjamb. Stand with your chest and head up to avoid hunching. Exhale slowly as you shift your weight toward your front foot, which causes your body to lean forward. You should feel your chest stretch and your shoulder blades pull together. Hold this stretch for five to six deep breaths. Switch leg position and repeat the stretch. Do this stretch every 15 to 20 minutes per hour that you work.
You can't always blame your pec minor or major for giving you tightness in your chest. If you have limited movement in your thoracic or upper spine, it can cause the chest muscles to get tight, says physical therapist Gray Cook. You can stretch your chest all day and those muscles will stay tight and won't relax. One exercise you can do to increase thoracic mobility is the kneeling T-spine rotation. Kneel on the floor on your hand and knees with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Put your right hand behind your neck and lift your elbow up. Exhale slowly as you turn your torso to your right, lifting your elbow higher as you turn. Inhale as you turn back to the starting position. Do not push your neck down with your hand. Do two sets of 10 reps per side. When you are done, do the doorway chest stretch.
Treat yourself to a day of professional massage to alleviate stress. Massage therapy can increase tissue elasticity and reduce the number of trigger points in your pec minor. Consult a licensed massage therapist to discover which method of massage works best for you. After your massage session, spend about 10 minutes doing the T-spine rotation and doorway chest stretch.
- Pain-Free Program; Anthony Carey
- GrayCook.com: Expanding on the Joint-by-Joint Approach
- Anatomy Trains; Thomas Myers
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.