With the Molokai Hoe 2016 completed, many paddlers are taking a break to allow their injuries to heal. One of the most common injuries paddlers deal with is shoulder pain, and one underlying cause is tight pectoral “pec” muscles. Interestingly, there are 2 different pec muscles — your pec major which is the bigger muscle targeted with bench pressing, and the pec minor which is the smaller muscle underneath the pec major.
The pec minor attaches to your shoulder blade and connects to your upper ribs. When it’s tight it causes your shoulder blade to tip forward with the paddling stroke, causing poor mechanics and shoulder impingement. The pec major muscle attaches to your sternum/collarbone and connects to your upper arm. Tightness in the pec major muscle can round your shoulders forward and also lead to shoulder impingement. This impingement can cause irritation and pain to the rotator cuff tendons which can quickly take the fun out of paddling.
In today’s society, many individuals spend hours working at their computers, commuting to work, and looking at their phones. Spending this much time in a “slouched” position can lead to tight pec muscles which can set you up for shoulder pain in the canoe. What can you do about it?
One way improve flexibility in your chest muscles is to perform stretches against a wall or doorway. The pictures above demonstrate excellent ways to target the pec muscles and all fibers and muscles of your chest. The pictures with 1 arm being stretched should be done in a doorway and target your pec major muscle. The picture with both arms being stretched should be done at the corner of two walls and targets your pec minor muscle. Hold each stretch for about 30 sec to a minute for 2-3 sets.
By Tim Chang PT, DPT