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A pectoral muscle is either of the two major chest muscles that aid in the movement of the shoulders and the upper arms. A torn or strained pectoral muscle can be recognized by chest pain, swelling, the inability to lift objects, and limited mobility of the upper body. A torn muscle occurs when the fibers that make up the muscle rupture. Depending on the severity, to treat a torn pec, most doctors recommend the R.I.C.E treatment — rest, ice, compress, and elevate. In more extreme cases, surgery may be required to fully recover.
Resting the injured muscle is extremely important, as it gives the muscle time to heal. Because the first 48 hours are considered to be the most critical time after an injury, doctors say that resting is essential to treat a torn pectoral muscle. Any activity using the chest muscle should be limited, including lifting. You may have to use a device that will immobilize this area, such as a sling.
During the first 48 hours after the injury occurred, doctors also recommend applying ice to treat a torn pectoral, which will help reduce the pain and swelling. Regular ice packs can be used, or ice wrapped in a towel and even a bag of frozen vegetables can be used. The injured muscle should be iced every two to four hours for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Icing the area for longer periods can result in further damage to the tissue. Moving the ice pack around and not letting it sit in one spot for too long is also recommended.
Another way to help reduce the swelling of a torn pectoral muscle is by compressing the area. Using a chest wrap or an ACE bandage around the injured pectoral muscle should do the trick. It is important, however, to make sure that it is not too tight or cutting off circulation. If it feels too tight or there is a throbbing sensation in the area, take the wrap off and reapply it.
Elevating the injured area, which can also help reduce swelling, is also recommended to treat a torn pectoral muscle. The injured side should be kept above the heart. This can be done by propping the injured arm and shoulder on a few pillows or laying on the opposite side.
For a more severe tear that does not seem to heal on its own, seeking medical help may be necessary to treat your torn pectoral muscle. Your doctor will most likely recommend physical therapy, but in more severe cases, he may recommend surgery. In some cases, this surgery can be the only way for the muscle to heal properly.
How well would alternative treatments, such as acupuncture of chiropractic healing, work on an injury like this? I've had some success with chiropractors for general back issues, but I've never tried them in the aftermath of an injury.