Pulled Chest Muscle: Causes, Concerns, and Treatments for Relief
Find out about the symptoms and causes of a pulled chest muscle and how to treat it effectively
"Is this a pulled chest muscle or is this a heart attack?" That's what most people experiencing chest pain want to know -- fast. Don't worry. According to Harvard Medical School, only 20% of chest pain sufferers are diagnosed with a heart attack. That means that 80% of the time it's something else, like a pulled chest muscle. It often occurs when the pectorals (chest muscles) are overstretched, causing small tears in the muscle fibers, which can be painful.
Signs and symptoms of a pulled chest muscle
The pain experienced from a pulled chest muscle can be either sharp or dull and it can be more pronounced with deep inhales and exhales. Other signs of chest muscle strain include swelling, bruising, and muscle spasms. If your chest pain occurred during strenuous activity and it is accompanied by dizziness, nausea, sweating, or racing pulse, it could be a heart attack. Call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. If you aren't sure, try putting your hands on your pectoral muscles (your chest cavity) and apply pressure. If you feel increased pain as a result, then it's more likely to be a muscle injury than a heart attack.
Causes of a pulled chest muscle
A pulled chest muscle can be caused by a number of different situations. Those with weak chest muscles often injure themselves from heavy lifting, especially if the muscles aren't warmed up first. Many people pull their chest muscles from lifting weights or moving heavy furniture. Another common cause of chest muscle strain is contact sports and other athletics that require forceful or repetitive motions. Tennis, golf, and rowing are prime examples. Outside of physical activities, a pulled chest muscle can easily occur from excessive, hard coughing. People who suffer from bronchitis or a bad cold can injure and inflame chest muscles from incessant, deep coughs.
How to treat a pulled chest muscle
Most of the time, a pulled chest muscle is a minor injury. Depending on the severity, it can heal on its own within a few days or a few weeks. Get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous exercise. If there is swelling, try icing the chest area for at least 20 minutes at a time. Pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can also help reduce muscle inflammation and pain. For chronic muscle strains, physical therapy can be very helpful. It aids in reducing pain and while restoring strength and motion in the pectoral muscles. Depending on the patient's needs, a physical therapist may utilize massage, special exercises, and stretches as treatments.
On-Demand Physical Therapy With Luna
Understandably, many people are avoiding public places like hospitals and clinics to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A good alternative for care is on-demand physical therapy, like Luna. It offers a safer and easier way to jumpstart your healing process. Luna's therapists offer convenient in-person visits and televisits that fit your schedule perfectly. Plus, you'll receive one-on-one time from a board-certified physical therapist who is focused solely on you.