Pec muscle tear often requires surgery, physical therapy


South Carolina Gamecocks running back MarShawn Lloyd lifts weights during a workout. Weightlifters have to watch out for an injury to the pectoralis major muscle.

The State

Q. I was working out in the gym this past weekend and I felt a severe pain and a pop across my chest into my right shoulder. I noticed a deformity of my chest muscle and weakness when reaching across my body. I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, who said I tore my pectoralis tendon away from the bone. An MRI scan confirmed the diagnosis. He said that if I did not fix my tendon, the deformity and weakness would be permanent. I am nervous about surgery and want to know what to expect as far as recovery.

A. The thick chest wall called the pectoral muscle attaches just below the shoulder to the humerus. This muscle is very important in bringing your arm toward your body.

If the torn pectoral muscle is left untreated, it will scar and the deformity and weakness will remain. Surgery done more than a few weeks post injury is difficult to perform and may not achieve an optimal result.

The surgery is straightforward and the torn tendon is reattached to the bone with sutures. Surgery can usually be performed as an outpatient and the post-op pain generally improves significantly within a few days after surgery.

A sling is worn for 4-6 weeks depending upon your orthopedic surgeon’s protocol. A major key to success is dedication to a physical therapy program aimed at safely regaining motion and strength. Most athletes are out of competition for 4-6 months after surgery.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to

Harlan Selesnick. M.D. C.W. Griffin Miami Herald file

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