Stretching Exercises For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment

by Mouli Chakraborty
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Ever heard about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or exercises related to it? Well! It’s a moderately common diagnosis that affects nearly eight percent of our population.

With TOS, you will have pain anywhere between your chest, neck, face, and occipital region, with paresthesia in your upper extremity. It happens depending upon which place the symptoms are emanating from.

Like other conditions, this problem will give you various indications or symptoms. Yet, you may not get to know about the particular pain generator. 

But, can we treat it or eliminate the pain that this diagnosis originates? Well! Yes, you can do so, but you have to take the pain of exercising regularly.

Doing proper exercises will solve your problem and help you lead a happy, pain-free life. So, Come! Let’s know in detail about the exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome and also the condition itself. 

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What Is TOS (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome)

What Is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
What Is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

It’s a non-specified label that can be a complicated condition to diagnose, mainly when the pain or symptoms arises from one’s neck or shoulder. TOS can be any one of the following:

  • Arterial
  • Neurogenic
  • Venous

Previously, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome was thought to be an arterial issue. However, recently, after doing a survey, it has been confirmed that neurogenic TOS affects the most in the patients, with over ninety percent of them being compromised in this situation.

In this condition, it’s not only your subclavian artery but also your subclavian vein or brachial plexus that gets compressed. 

So, the condition usually results from your neurovascular bundle’s compression by various structures that rest above the area of your first rib and the backside of your clavicle.

The potential areas of compression for TOS are inter scalene triangle, costoclavicular space, and sub-pectoralis minor space/subcoracoid. 

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome includes congenital etiologies, traumatic etiologies, and functional etiologies. 

Congenital etiologies encompass Cervical Rib, the Seventh Cervical vertebrae, Cervicodorsal Scoliosis, Anomalous First Rib, Enlarged Scalene Muscles, and Congenital Elevated Scapula. 

Traumatic etiologies encompass whiplash-associated injuries and falls. 

Functional etiologies encompass vigorous and repetitive activities linked with sports and work. 

We recommend you to go through the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Physical Therapy protocol, and you will notice a huge difference.

You can beat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with the following Thoracic Outlet Syndrome exercises. They will free you from your thoracic spine’s stiffness and prevent your adjacent spinal regions’ dysfunction.

Also, they will improve the mobility of your thoracic spine. These exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome specifically target your scapular musculature engagement, appropriate muscle lengthening of the neck as well as the upper quarter’s muscles, profound neck flexor strength, and functional stabilization of the thoracic spine. So, give a look at them:

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment Exercises

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment Exercises
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment Exercises

Banded Pull Apart:

  • Start this stretching for thoracic outlet syndrome upright.
  • Now, hold a band’s end of desired resistance. And spread it.
  • Concentrate on instigating this motion with the help of your scapula or shoulder blades and pursuing it with your shoulders.

This superb thoracic outlet syndrome exercise is a great workout that fosters an upright posture. It wakes up your scapular musculature. 

You can put this exercise into your list of workouts, which can be roughly named “movement snacks”.

In case you keep crouching most of your day at a stretch in a certain direction, this workout will be very beneficial for you as it will make you stride in the opposite direction with your forward head, rounded shoulders, and increased thoracic kyphosis. 

With this exercise, you will feel that your shoulders, mainly its back and outside parts, are working. Also, the exercise will make you feel the activation of the muscles that exist between your shoulder blades.

Remember to be cautious while doing this exercise. You must avoid arching your back and shrugging your shoulder while lifting the shoulder.

Your shoulders must be relaxed while performing the workout, and your focus must be exclusively on your shoulder blades that are driving the movement. 

Seated Chin Tuck Or Wide-Neck Flexor Strengthening Exercise

This exercise is one of the best thoracic outlet syndrome exercises to avoid the stiffness of your thoracic spine.

For performing this exercise, sit down and concentrate on tucking the chin of your face towards your neck’s frontal upper part.

Assume that you are creating your double chin. This will make you feel that the frontal muscles of your neck are activated. 

There will be a stretch in your neck’s back portion at your skull’s base, and you will be able to feel it.

Minimize the enactment of excessive neck motion. You must realize that this is a slighter motion that focuses on moving your skull residing upon your cervical spine.

Though some cervical motion will exist, there will not be any excessive motion. For example, you may not let your full neck bend forward from chin to chest. 

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Supine Pec Stretch Using A Foam Roller

This exercise, among other exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome, is best for improving your chest wall mobility.

The exercise is straightforward. Just lay on your foam roller and allow it to go right down your spinal cord with the support of your neck.

Position your feet by keeping them flat on the floor and your knees bent. Move your arms up as well as out sidewards by raising your palms up. 

Allow gravity to pull your arms downwards such that a stretch happens in your chest.

Please keep them in the same place for the suggested amount of time. The exercise will make you sense a deep stretch within your chest muscles.

Every moment you do this exercise, you must be sure that your neck remains supported with this workout. 

For doing this exercise, at first, position your foam roller such that it becomes perpendicular to the spine of your body.

Now grab onto a pipe or stick by elevating the arms of your body as remote back as possible while you attempt to caress the floor. The movement is extremely similar to the movement of a wall angel. 

You should spend some repetitions on each segment and then proceed towards the next. Remember, your butt must not come off the ground, and your rib must not flare out as compensation from your back’s lower part.

You can perform this exercise aggressively by manipulating an external load. 

However, by doing so, your stretch will become more passive than active. And, your stiff thoracic spine can result in some issues up to your kinetic chain to your neck or shoulder.

Try to self-mobilize your thoracic spine (only for 2 minutes). There’s no problem if you feel like keeping your head supported using your hands because of the straining of your neck. You can certainly do that. 

Quadruped Scapula Push-Up

For performing this exercise, at first, position yourself on the hands and knees of your body. It should be in a quadrupled position where your shoulders will stack over your hands and your hips over your knees.

Do a chin tuck while you keep maintaining the head or neck position all the time. Now, go for a push-up. Do it by retaining your elbows in a straight position and pushing onto the floor, thus separating the shoulder blades of your body from one another as well as dropping your chest towards the ground.   

This exercise will make you feel that you are doing a coordination exercise because while performing this workout, your focus remains on maintaining the position of your head and neck while simultaneously shifting your shoulder blades.

Also, the underside of your neck will suddenly make you experience a gentle stretch towards your skull’s base. The exercise will also stimulate your neck muscles to work and maintain your head position. 

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Exercise Of Neck Stretching

Unlike all other exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome, this exercise comprises 2 mobilizations.

The first is for your 1st rib, whereas the 2nd one is for your scalene muscles. They may help unlock the space in between your Costoclavicular/Subcoracoid space.

In TOS, your brachial plexus, that is, a system of nerves operating from your spine to your arms that runs directly over your 1st rib, remains under pressure. 

As a result, all the nerves as well as blood vessels that pass through the area sense this pressure. This exercise helps to alleviate the pain and pressure resulting from TOS.

For performing this exercise, sit on your towel’s back end and wrap it around your shoulder girdle’s top. Take the towel’s other end down towards your opposite hip. 

Now do the second stretch by stabilizing your scapula and sitting over your hand, holding something (like a chair’s bottom etc.).

Maintain a subtle chin tuck and side bend the head of your body to the other direction while doing that. Perform the exercise for 2×30 seconds every time you do it.  

Ulnar Nerve Sliders Exercise

Is your ulnar nerve making your body numb from your arm right down to the ring or pinky finger? Then, among all the exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome, give this exercise the first priority.

For performing this exercise, take a standing position and keep your index finger as well as thumb together with your remaining three fingers in a spread apart, straight and extended manner. 

Now, do the exercise for nerve mobility by turning your palms in the direction of the ceiling with the fingers of your hands pointed upwards.

Create a circle right over your same-sided eye using your index finger as well as your thumb. And while doing so, you must allow your palm to confront your face. 

Also, during this step, raise your elbow up to a height as well as outwards to the side. You must do the rising of your elbow as much as possible.

Now, while keeping your hand and finger positions, you must try to reach your body’s side away as far as possible. While doing it, your palm must face away from you. 

Forthwith, bend the neck and head of your body in your moving arm’s opposing direction up to what you can condone. After its completion, start again by retreating back to the initiating position.

While doing this exercise, be very gentle with the mobilization because any irritation here can result in delayed pain response. Also, perform this exercise very slowly for 2*15 repetitions. 

Wrapping Up: 

All the above exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome are very helpful for treating the condition. However, in the case of each of these exercises, you must proceed with caution. So, before doing these exercises, it’s better to take the advice of a professional who has often dealt with this TOS issue. Though the syndrome is problematic to diagnose, the prognosis often turns good by doing these exercises and taking conservative care.  

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Q.1. What aggravates thoracic outlet syndrome?

Answer: A physical trauma (from some job-related or sports-related repetitive injuries), specific anatomical defects as well as pregnancy are the things that aggravate thoracic outlet syndrome. 

Q.2. Is stretching good for thoracic outlet syndrome?

Answer: Yes, stretching is definitely good for thoracic outlet syndrome. Stretching along with manual therapy targets the scalene muscles as well as the pectoral muscles, relieves them, and fights TOS. 

Q.3. How do you reverse thoracic outlet syndrome?

Answer: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can be reversed by performing exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome. It will exempt you from the situation of the immobility of the thoracic painful spine of your body and stave off your adjacent spinal areas’ dysfunction. Furthermore, they will enhance the activeness of your inactive thoracic spine.

Q.4. Will thoracic outlet syndrome go away?

Answer: Although it’s impossible to prevent TOS in some cases, the disease can be cured by treating it. However, suppose the ailment is not treated timely and correctly. In that case, it may give rise to several complications, including permanent arm swelling and pain (particularly true for patients with venous TOS).

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