Thoracic Outlet Syndrome causes numbness, tingling and circulation problems in the arm. It usually just occurs on one side of the body and is caused by tightness in the scalene muscles in the neck. These muscle form a triangle which various nerves and vessels pass through. Tightness in these muscles causes compression which restricts blood flow and interferes with nerve function. Poor posture also contributes to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. So we need to loosen these muscle up and improve your posture. In this video we'll go over some specific stretches to get to the root of the problem.
First there's an easy test to see if you have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. It's called the Roos Test. Hold your arms at 90 degree angles like this. And open and close your hands for up to 3 minutes. If it reproduces your symptoms or if you can't hold your arm up for that long then there's a good chance you have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. When you lower your hands compare the color. The affected side will often appear more pale due to lack of blood flow.
To stretch the scalenes tilt your head back and away from your problematic side. Then rotate toward your problem side and hold this position for 30 seconds. You should feel a good stretch in side of your neck. And sometimes it will cause some tingling in the arm. Start gentle, over time you will be able to handle a stronger stretch. If you don't feel a stretch usually you need to tilt your head further back or more to the side. Play with the angle of stretch until you get it right.
Get in front a doorway. Place your arms in the doorway and lean forward. You should feel a stretch in your chest as your shoulders are pushed back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. You can adjust the height of your arms in the doorway to stretch different parts of your chest. If you get pain or reproduction of your symptoms try different angles to get a more comfortable stretch.
With the head starting in a neutral position bend to the side while applying a gentle to moderate amount of pressure to the head. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times. To add intensity do the stretch while sitting on your hand and simultaneously applying pressure to the head. Perform these exercises 3 times a day to get relief from your symptoms.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is often accompanied by rib dysfunction because the scalene muscles attach to the first and second ribs. You may benefit from a rib manipulation to get further relief from your symptoms. And that's available here at Stronglife Physiotherapy.
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AJ Ludlow is a Doctor of Physical Therapy serving the Provo/Orem area and specializing in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injuries.