Pectoralis Major Tear

6 05 2008

Firstly, I am not a doctor or qualified in a medical profession in any way—I am just documenting my personal experiences with this particular injury.

Staying physically active plays a large role in my day-to-day routine. While I love to cut code and experiment with technology, it doesnt help me towards keeping a physically healthy body. To balance this, I mainly participate in solo sports (jogging, road cycling and resistance training at the gym)—this way I can exercise when I want and how I want.

Per week, my routine generally comprises of about 25Km of real jogging (i.e. not using a machine) and 10 hours in the gym doing resistance training. Through various protein supplements and heavy resistance training I have been consistently bulking up over the last 18 months (I am fairly lean, 188cm tall and currently weight about 100Kg).

In late April (24th) 2008 I went to gym planning to rip through my usual chest/shoulder program. It was about 9:00PM and the gym was basically dead—great! When it came to use the bench press, my right-shoulder had throbbing sensation (imagine a tooth-ache only across the front of your shoulder). This had started a few weeks prior when I played some casual indoor cricket with some colleagues from work—something I hadnt done for years. The wrenching/stretching of bowling was too much for my muscle bound shoulder—not like when I was younger.

As this throbbing sensation had been causing me to now miss workout sessions, I brushed it off thinking I could tough this one out. I got through the first light warm-up set, and the intensity of the throbbing got worse. Frustrated at my “weak” throbbing shoulder, I proceeded with my second set with full weight. When it came to lower the third rep the throbbing on the side of my armpit suddenly turned into a sharp intense pain, which was followed by a popping/tearing sensation. Still load bearing the shoulder just slumped backwards in the same way a dislocation would—getting a fully loaded barbell off me with just my left arm was nasty to say the least. Although I didn’t realise at the time, I had just torn/ripped/ruptured my right chest muscle (aka the “pec” or “pectoral” or “pectoralis major”).

To summarise the remainder of my experience so far, within the first-week my right bicep got very black and blue (with no pain) and my right chest/armpit/shoulder region felt very tight. Two weeks out from the injury the pectoral chest was still very swollen and the bicep still badly bruised—I didnt however feel much pain at all. Although not painful, it felt like I was missing a chunk of muscle around my armpit—a really strange feeling. Pressing the palms of my hands together with my arms fully extended out in front of me (pec-fly motion) really highlighted the problem—I no longer had any power with this motion, as there was no muscle.

I visited three separate GP’s within the first week and got varying results—from pain killer scripts to physiotherapy referrals. One GP gave me a referral to get some ultrasound imaging done. These confirmed a 35mm tear of the pectoralis major. Concerned I “googled” for others experiences (try searching “pectoral tear” or “pectoral rupture”)—there are some useful resources out there. Some claim MRI is the most effective way of diagnosing this injury as the large amount of swelling that occurs with this injury makes ultrasound work very difficult.

The online research consistency indicated one thing…that early surgery is the only possible solution to a full recovery. While shocked to read this, I knew how serious the injury was from the large tearing sensation I had felt. Thanks to this knowledge I now knew what had to be done—surgery, and fast. General doctor’s (aka GP’s) have a tough job, they are expected to accurately diagnose a vast array of possible injuries and illnesses. As this particular injury is uncommon, be prepared for your GP to be a little off the ball with this one. As my family doctor had a one week backlog before he could see me, I went to the nearest first-in-first-out public medical centre and saw the first possible doctor available. I gave him the ultrasounds, and told him I wanted to see an orthopaedic surgeon ASAP. I rang the surgeon I was referred to, only to find that he was unable to work on this particular injury. Great, all that for nothing. To cut a long story short over the next week, I saw several more GP’s and got as many orthopaedic surgeon contacts and referrals as I could. I found most had backlogs of patients weeks/months long. I eventually located a private orthopaedic surgeon that was able to see me within two days. This process is extremely frustrating and time consuming—be persistent and dont give up.

I was very lucky—the orthopaedic surgeon not only had a solid understanding of the injury and how to repair it, but had done several of them over her career. Within two days, the surgery was complete. As I type this post with just my left hand, my right arm is in a sling, and I have new 12cm incision running from my shoulder down to the top of my bicep where the pectoral muscle was reconnected. Event timeline:

Timeline of Events

I tore my pectoral on the 24th of April 2008 and had the surgery done on the 5th of May. So there was an 11 day period between the actual injury and the surgery. 6 weeks out from my surgery I have had two post-op visits, and can personally confirm that the results (so far) have been amazing. I am positive that I will have a 100+% recovery.

At my 6-week post-op I got the all clear to take the sling off. Although my shoulder/chest/arm muscles have badly deteriorated, most (85%) of my arm motion is now free without any pain. The pectoral muscle feels tight (like a piece of string), but like it is in tact once again (i.e. it stretches over the armpit to the shoulder once again). Three weeks ago I commenced a rehabilitation program with a physiotherapist. My orthopaedic has advised me that in another 4–5 months I can probably return to shoulder/chest weight training.

So far the whole ordeal has cost me around AU$5000. To be honest I would have paid anything to get it fixed—so I considered this to be cheap.




8 responses

31 05 2008
Evert Jacobs

Hi Ben

I suspect (well I’m pretty positive) I have the same problem. Played rugby on Fri night and stuck out my arm to stop an attacker when it was pulled backward and I could feel the muscle pop.

At first it was confusing trying to find out what is actually wrong cause I could pick up my arm and it was relatively painless and I wasn’t quite sure whether it was my deltoid or bicep – did not at first even think of my pec.

All I could feel was that something was missing around the armpit – in terms of muscle. Do you perhaps have any pictures or anything that you can post. I’m going for sonar on Monday but sounds like it’s not the best method of detecting damage as per your post.

Would appreciate it if you could post some pictures and more info if you have some.


16 06 2008
Robert Griffin

i have injured my pec muscle, not sure which one. i live in south georgia and i am seeking a GOOD doctor.if you know of one in this area please let me know.thanks Robert

21 06 2008

Hey Ben, I had exactly the same injury and surgery. My arm’s still in the sling. Check out my experiences on . Hope you’re getting better.

29 06 2008
Strong stomach recommended « A pectoralis major rupture

[…] Bencode’s pectoralis major tear The story of Australian Ben, who also tore his pec, but exactly one month before I did. Ben also mentions some other sites with info. […]

19 08 2008

I suspect that I have the same injury. On July 24th I was waterskiing in the Keys. The boat that was pulling me hit the wake of another boat and the ski rope slacked. Instinctively, I pulled the rope handle to my chest with my left arm, almost immediately the boat lurched forward. I heard a pop and it felt like a rubber band in my left chest/bicep area had snapped. I felt it shrink forward towards my elbow and within 12 hours my bicep looked like a purple egg plant. Several days later, my pectoral area on the same side began to bruise. I showed my GP – she ordered an MRI seven days later, which showed “loose bodies” and what she thought might be a torn tendon. Two weeks later (yesterday 8-18-08), I finally got in front of an orthopaedic “specialist” who seemed intrigued, but admitted he’s very conservative in his approach. Everything that I’ve read has stated that the only way to recover and get the full range of motion back is through surgery. Right now I can’t even do one push up without discomfort. Should I be more aggressive?

26 01 2009

I ripped my pectoral major in 2003. Never got surgery…but I’ve recovered about 85%. I wish I would have gotten surgery but it’s too late to worry about that now. I have pictures at the end of this thread.

5 02 2009

i suffered a pectoralis major tear while doing bench press with 170kgs. Later it was diagnosed as a 18mm tear.I want an advise wheather to go for surgery or any other medication.

12 03 2009
dan shanahan

I tore the pec muscle,not the connective tissue in December of 2001.I got an MRI and was told by two seperate orthopaedic surgeons that there was no surgery for the injury.It was as difficult as cutting off a horse’s tail and trying to reconnect every hair.The surgeons said that it would continue to tear until I needed a prosthetic sholder.They were correct,it is contnually getting worse and all if it has tore away.I often wonder if there has been any break throughs in treatments of this injury.Please let me know.

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