Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Stretches & Exercises

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a licensed Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. If you have a question, just ask. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

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Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is basically the compression of vessels at the thoracic outlet. 

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Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can be very painful, and it can cause a lot of problems down into your arms. The best stretches and exercises for TOS are pec stretches, first rib mobilization, and nerve stretches and/or glides.

The first stretch is a pec stretch. You can do this in sitting or standing. Clasp your hands behind you and try to squeeze your palms together. Push your hands downward, and push your chest out and up. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do three of them.

Next, you can take a tennis ball or lacrosse ball and place it in the spot between your neck and shoulder where the first rib is. Side bend and rotate your neck toward the side of pain and take a deep breath in and push down as you are breathing out. You can do this as many times as you want throughout the day.

Now, take a roller and lay on it vertically so your head is resting on it. Place your hands in a stop sign position, and let them relax to stretch your pec muscles. If that is not enough of a stretch, you can raise them higher above your head or have someone push down lightly on your arms. Hold for 30 seconds, and do three of them.

Then you will do shoulder or scapular squeezes. You can use your elbows to help squeeze your shoulder blades back behind you. Imagine that someone has their hand on the middle of your spine, and you are trying to squeeze their hand with your shoulder blades. Do about 10-15 of those.

For the nerve glides and stretches, you want to be very careful to not overdo them and irritate the nerves. Just starting off with 10 of these for one day should be plenty. The first modified version is the glide. Put your hand up, out to your side with your elbow bent, and your palm facing your head. Imagine that there is a string attached to your hand and your head. Sidebend your head to that side as you straighten out your arm, and then come back up. If that is not much of a stretch, then you can do the full motion with a nerve stretch. Now place your arm straight out with your palm facing the ceiling. This time sidebend your head away from your arm, and at your wrist, bend down at the same time. You might want to start with just the wrist movement.

Finally, you will stretch your scalene muscles, which attach to your first rib. Clasp your hands behind you again, but you can do this loosely. Rotate your head away from the injured side, and sidebend it away as well. You should feel the stretch in your front neck muscles. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do this 3 times.

Related Videos:

Chest Stretches for Tight or Sore Muscles

First Rib Mobilization for Neck & Shoulder Pain Relief


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