THIS LITTLE MUSCLE MIGHT BE SABOTAGING YOUR #CIRCUSSHOULDER
Your pectoralis minor might just be the evil villain to your circus fairytale….dramatic, perhaps, but true. You could have the perfect injury prevention routine, but if your pec minor is too tight, it will all go to waste. In this post, I’ll start off with relevant anatomy of the pec minor, how to tell if its tight, and discuss how dysfunction in this muscle can negatively impact your circus training and lead to injury and pain. I’ll also show a few different stretches and exercises that I find the most effective in avoiding issues and injuries caused by a tight pec minor.
PEC MINOR: FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY
The pec minor is a relatively small muscle that lies underneath the pec major. It attaches to the upper ribs (ribs 3-5) and to the front of the shoulder blade (on the coracoid process). Because of this, it has functions in a few different realms: in breathing (specifically, deep breathing, and “chest” breathing), and it also anteriorly tilts and protracts the shoulder blade (see photos below).
When this muscle is tight, this manifests as a constantly protracted and anteriorly tilted shoulder blade: in normal terms, this looks like rounded/hunched shoulders…basically, bad posture. Underneath the pec minor, running between the muscle and your ribs, are a bunch of nerves and blood vessels, that travel from your neck down to your arm.
WHAT IF IT’S TOO TIGHT?
THE RECIPE FOR A TIGHT PEC MINOR
QUANTIFYING FLEXIBILITY (BEYOND “SUPER TIGHT” AND “KINDA TIGHT”)
STRETCH. IT. OUT.
I recommend doing these three exercises before circus training as part of your warm up. It’s also a good idea to do one or two of these as part of your cool down, ESPECIALLY if your training session involved any of the previously mentioned activities that contribute to tight pecs.
YELLOW LIGHTS AND RED LIGHTS…
There are a few things to watch out for when doing these stretches. Because of the nerves and arteries that lie under the pec minor, you might feel numbness and tingling during these stretches, especially in the first week of incorporating them into your training program. If you feel this, stop the stretch and shake it out. Wait for the numbness and tingling to subside, then continue at a LOWER INTENSITY. The goal is to feel a stretching sensation without any numbness or tingling. Do not push through the stretch after the onset of these symptoms, doing so is counterproductive! You can also try bending your elbow during these exercises, as that may alleviate the tingling by putting the nerves on slack. If you can’t do these without feeling numbness and tingling after making these modifications, RED LIGHT…do not pass go…call a physio and make an appointment.
Another word of caution: I started out this post by talking about symptoms that you may feel if you have a tight pec minor: pain in the front of the shoulder, diffuse pain down your deltoid, or numbness and tingling during stretching. There are a LOT of different structures and injuries that can cause these same symptoms, and some of them are very serious. If you’re experiencing any of these, and they stick around for longer than a few days, thats another red light. CALL A PT! Constant pain should not be a staple in your circus training.
As always, feel free to comment below with questions or concerns! Happy stretching!