Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that can cause pain in the neck, shoulders, and arms. It is often caused by compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the area between the collarbone and the first rib. Physical therapy can be an effective treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome. In this blog post, we will discuss 5 exercises that can help relieve the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome.
- 1 What Is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
- 2 Top 5 Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Physical Therapy Exercises
- 3 What Are Some Other Physical Therapies?
- 4 Are There Any Limitations?
- 5 Conclusion
What Is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a group of disorders that affect nerves, arteries, and veins in the thoracic outlet—the area between the collarbone and first rib. This is caused when these structures become compressed by muscles and tight ligaments, leading to pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand.
There are several symptoms that are characterized by TOS, including:
- Pain that radiates from the neck down to the arm
- Tingling in the fingers
- Difficulty with everyday activities like reaching for something
- Numbness or weakness in the arms
Physical therapy can be a highly effective form of treatment when it comes to managing TOS symptoms. Below are five physical therapy exercises that can help alleviate the pain associated with TOS.
Top 5 Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Physical Therapy Exercises
Physical therapy is always a great way to help alleviate pain caused by thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). Below are five effective physical therapy exercises you can use to reduce your symptoms:
Shoulder Blade Squeeze and Release
This exercise helps strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder blade and neck, as well as stretch out the tight muscles in between them. To do this exercise, stand or sit in a comfortable position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5-10 seconds, then release and relax. Repeat 10 times.
It is believed that shoulder blade squeeze and release can help reduce the pain associated with TOS, as well as improve mobility in the area. This simple yet effective exercise can help increase muscle control and reduce tension in the thoracic region.
Upper Trap Stretch
This exercise helps target the muscles in your upper back, which can often become overworked and tight due to poor posture or repetitive motions. To do this stretch, stand up straight with your arms at your sides and place one hand on the back of your head. Gently pull the elbow of that hand towards the opposite side until you feel a stretch in the upper trapezius muscle. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
This exercise helps promote better posture and relieve tightness in the upper back muscles, which can help reduce tension on the thoracic outlet and improve mobility.
Shoulder External Rotation Stretch
This stretch helps target the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder, which can become weak or tight due to improper use of the arm. To do this exercise, stand up straight with your arms at your sides and hold one arm out to the side, bent at a 90-degree angle. Next, use your other arm to gently pull the elbow of the outstretched arm towards the opposite side to feel a stretch in the shoulder area. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.
This exercise helps improve strength and flexibility in the rotator cuff muscles, which can help reduce pain caused by TOS.
Scapular Wall Slides
This exercise helps strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder blade and neck, as well as stretch out tight muscles in between them. To do this exercise, stand with your back flat against a wall and bring your elbows to shoulder height. Slowly slide your elbows up the wall while keeping your shoulders down, then back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
This exercise is great for improving posture and reducing tension in the thoracic outlet, which can help relieve pain associated with TOS.
Seated Posture Stretch
Finally, this stretch helps improve your posture by targeting the muscles that support your neck and upper back. To do it, sit up straight in a chair and bring your hands behind your head. Gently pull your elbows back until you feel a stretch, then hold for 10-15 seconds and release.
This exercise is great for reducing pain caused by TOS, as it helps to improve posture and reduce tension in the affected area. In fact, it is believed that good posture can help reduce the symptoms associated with TOS.
By incorporating these five physical therapy exercises into your daily routine, you can significantly reduce pain caused by thoracic outlet syndrome and improve mobility in the affected area.
When done regularly and correctly, these exercises can help ease the symptoms of TOS and promote overall health. With the right treatment plan in place, you can take control of your condition and manage your symptoms effectively. Good luck!
What Are Some Other Physical Therapies?
When you are considering physical therapy for thoracic outlet syndrome, there are various options other than exercises that you can choose from.
For instance, manual therapy is a technique used to mobilize the joints and soft tissue, helping to reduce pain and enhance mobility in the area. Massage treatments are also beneficial for thoracic outlet syndrome as they help relax the muscles around the neck and shoulders, leading to the reduction of muscle tightness, inflammation, and pain.
Other treatment options may include:
- Electrical stimulation: It is used to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as provide muscle relaxation.
- Posture correction: Postural exercises can help improve your posture, which can help reduce the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome.
- Ultrasound therapy: This can be used to reduce inflammation, scar tissue, and pain.
- Iontophoresis: This is a technique that involves the application of electric current through skin or tissue. It is used to deliver medications and provide relief from muscle spasms.
- Cold therapy: This can help ease pain associated with thoracic outlet syndrome.
In addition to these treatments, your physical therapist may also recommend certain lifestyle modifications and ergonomic adjustments. They can include changing your sleeping position, using a lumbar roll for posture support while sitting, or investing in an adjustable desk chair.
By combining manual therapy with the above treatments and exercises, you can experience significant improvement in your condition. Consult with your physical therapist to find the best treatment plan for your individual needs.
Are There Any Limitations?
While thoracic outlet syndrome physical therapy is a great way to reduce pain and improve function, it’s important to be aware of some limitations. Some of these are listed below:
- Performing thoracic outlet syndrome-specific exercises too quickly or without proper form and technique can cause further injury.
- Many of these exercises require the use of weights, bands, or other equipment. And may not be possible for those with limited access to such items.
- You should always consult with a doctor before beginning physical therapy for thoracic outlet syndrome. As the condition can be linked to other underlying medical issues.
In addition, there are some things that you should avoid while undergoing physical therapy for thoracic outlet syndrome. These include:
- Activities that require repetitive overhead motions or quick
- Abrupt movements of the upper extremities
- Exercises that require excessive stretching of the neck and shoulders
Overall, with these things in mind, you can begin to consider which physical therapy exercises may be the right choice for you. Be sure to consult your doctor and physical therapist before beginning any exercise routine.
In conclusion, thoracic outlet syndrome physical therapy is an effective method for managing the symptoms associated with TOS. By following a regiment of stretching, strengthening, and posture correction exercises, you can reduce pain and discomfort from thoracic outlet syndrome.
It is important to consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program. As they can help you create a safe and effective regimen that addresses your individual needs. With the right physical therapy program, you can reduce the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. And improve your overall quality of life.
Physical Therapy has always been proven to help patients recover from pain. Hence, if you’re experiencing Back pain, Shoulder pain, Knee pain, Neck pain, Elbow pain, Hip pain, or Arthritis pain, a physical therapist at MantraCare can help: Book a physiotherapy session.