Restrictions in one part of the body can lead to dysfunction at other, distant areas of the body. This effect is known as regional interdependence and is the reason why pain in your low back can be caused by a number of things that are not located in your low back. A great example of this occurring in many of us today is pec minor tightness and how it can lead to problems in the shoulder & neck, and also lead to headaches.
The pec minor originates from the ribs and attaches to the front of the shoulder blade. Because of these attachments, the muscle has a big effect on the position of the shoulder blade. Due to the slumped over posture that we are all too familiar with in modern society (thanks, computers/phones/ the internet), the pec minor is vulnerable to getting tight and shortened over time. As pec minor tightness gets worse, the shoulder blade is pulled & tipped forward. This new shoulder blade position is what leads to a potential cascade of problems.
At The Shoulder: With the shoulder blade in the position of being tipped forward and pulled towards the front and sides (protracted), moving the arm overhead becomes difficult. The shoulder blade normally rotates upwards as the arm moves overhead in order to keep the shoulder joint properly aligned. With the shoulder blade in this position, this upward rotation is more difficult and ultimately stops short, resulting in less range of motion for overhead reaching. In addition to reducing the overhead range of motion, the soft tissue structures around the shoulder joint are much more likely to be pinched between the shoulder blade and the upper arm (impingement).
At The Neck: The rounded shoulder position caused by tightness in the pec minor can also have an impact on the upper half of the spine as well. As the shoulder blades are pulled forward, the upper thoracic spine can curve more forward (kyphosis). As the upper back humps forward more, the neck goes into extension in order to keep the head pointed forward (upper cross syndrome). Essentially the person is put into a position similar to constantly looking up. This posture puts a lot of strain on the joints in the neck and also leads to tightening of the upper trapezius muscles, which lead to more neck extension and more joint stress. Eventually the constant stress on the structures in the neck lead to pain and can ultimately lead to headaches.
I don’t know about you, but he doesn’t look too happy to me
Headaches: Pec minor tightness has a more indirect relationship to headaches than to pain at the neck or shoulders, but the connection is still very much there. Headaches can arise from problems in the neck, due to small nerves that run from the upper neck into the head. The upper cross posture that is, at least partially, brought on by pec minor tightness leads to compression of these small nerves and eventually tension headaches.
Regular shoulder mobility exercises and being aware of your posture throughout the day is the best way to avoid falling victim to any of these conditions! Without the proper mobility and strength in the shoulder muscles these problems can worsen over time.
If you’ve been trying to address your pecs and just are not getting the results you want, give us a call. We help people get back to doing the things that they love each and every day.