May 13

Effective New Exercises For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome You Can Do At Home


Tingling pain in the shoulder, especially when reaching for something high, can be a sign of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. If that's the case, there could be an expensive surgery in your near future, along with a truckload of addictive and expensive pain pills.

That's why I'm going to show you the fastest way to eliminate the tingling feeling and pain in your shoulder using exercises for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in the comforts of your own home.

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or TOS is a single term used to describe multiple variations of different types of compression near the neck and rib cage. In other words, it's a way to classify if a nerve, vein, or artery is being compressed within the shoulder and neck area. Most of us who feel pins and needles have compression on the brachial plexus, which is a group of nerves that pass through the area. Click here to learn more.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Symptoms

  • Paresthesia, also known as pin and needles, burning, or tingling in the shoulder, arm, and inside elbow. This may be a sign of nerves getting compressed.
  • Coldness or swelling in arms may be a sign of vascular compression.
  • Sleeping on your side or with your arm over your head may aggravate symptoms because it can cause compression.
  • Wearing heavy purses, backpacks, equipment straps, etc., can also contribute to aggravating your symptoms by depressing the shoulder, which may also cause compression.

Two Kinds Of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

There are two categories of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. They are called "True Neurologic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome" and "Non-Specific Thoracic Outlet Syndrome."

True Neurologic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is an anatomical anomaly in which you grow an extra rib extending from the spine at C7 to the first rib. What this does is cause a structural compression on the brachial plexus rather than a muscular compression, which will have to be surgically removed.

As for Non-Specific Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, this is when there is a compression on the nerves like I discussed earlier due to muscles tightening around them. When we overuse a muscle, it will become overactive, shorten, and pull the joints it's attached to closer together.

So, when we overuse muscles around our neck and shoulders by typing on computers all day (like I'm doing now), driving to and from work, etc., we are overusing these muscles causing compression on the nerves, arteries, and veins.

A Complete System to Eliminate Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Being a Human Movement Specialist here at Train and Massage, I have come up with a simple system you can follow to eliminate your Thoracic Outlet Syndrome within the comforts of your own home using nothing more than the old gym equipment you have in the back of your closet.


The first thing you must do before trying any new program or system is to get a baseline for assessments. The way you are going to do this is by checking in right now and seeing what your pain level is on a scale of 1-10 when it comes to your shoulder.

If you can, try to describe what the pain feels like to yourself and write it down somewhere. This system to relieve Thoracic Outlet Syndrome will take about 30 minutes which means, you will know if this worked for you or not in about 30 minutes.

Muscles to Release and Stretch for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

We talked about Non-Specific Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is when muscles become overactive and shorten, causing compression on nerves and, therefore, pain. So, what you are going to learn right now is how to turn off those overactive muscles from using self-massage tools like a foam roller, lacrosse ball, and much more.

The muscles you will be releasing and stretching are listed below, but before you get there, it's important to understand how to perform it correctly, so you're not wasting any time!

Why should you stretch? find out here!

How to properly use a foam roller and release overactive muscles

Use the foam roller to SLOWLY search for a tender spot on the muscle you want to release. Once you find that tender spot, hold pressure there for 15-60 seconds. Make sure you are able to take deep breaths in and out while on that tender spot. The reason I say that is because when we are on a spot that hurts, we tend to hold our breath, and that will defeat the purpose of letting the muscle relax. If you can't relax, neither can your muscles.

Use the videos below each muscle and pick the tool you have available to release each muscle. Use the formula outlined above in "How to properly use a foam roller and release overactive muscles" and apply it to any kind of release tool you have. Make sure to release each muscle for 1-2 minutes.

After you release the overactive muscles, you must then stretch these muscles to open up the space getting compressed. If you try to stretch before releasing the muscles, then you are going to be fighting your own nervous system and will probably loose and achieve nothing. Make sure to stretch each muscle for a minimum of 30-60 seconds, or 2-3 sets of PNF stretches.

Scalenes Release and Stretch

Your Scalenes are located on the side of the neck and contain three muscles within the group. You have the Anterior Scalene, Medial Scalene, and Posterior Scalene. These muscles start on the spine of the neck and attach to the first and second ribs. The brachial plexus specifically runs between the anterior and medial scalene, which means if these muscles get overactive, they can compress on the nerve very easily, causing pins and needles going down your shoulder and into your arm.

What's interesting about the medial scalene is one of its jobs is to help you inhale with the chest (which is the more difficult way to breathe btw). So, if you breathe with your chest, there may be a chance you're using your neck muscles to make breathing easier on yourself, which in turn, is making these muscles overactive.

Now, to properly release and stretch the scalenes, check out the video below. I also have timestamps for different release tools and stretching techniques below for you.

Pectoralis Minor Release and Stretch

The Pectoralis Minor or (Pec Minor), is a muscle that's hidden underneath the Pectorals Major, otherwise known as your chest. The Pec Minor starts on the ribs and attaches the coracoid process, which is a piece of the scapula that pokes out the front of the shoulder. The reason I'm telling you this is because the brachial plexus runs underneath this muscle and can easily get sandwiched between the pec minor and the bones underneath it.

Now, to properly release and stretch the Pec Minor, check out the video below. I also have timestamps for different release tools and stretching techniques below for you.

Subclavius Release and Stretch

The Subclavius is a small muscle located below (sub) the clavicle. This muscle pulls the clavicle down and forward and also helps with chest breathing. When this muscle becomes overactive, and it most likely will thanks to the help from the pec minor and scalenes, it will pull the clavicle down onto your first rib and literally close the gap on the brachial plexus. That's why this muscle needs to get released along with the rest of the muscles I just talked about.

Now, to properly release and stretch the Subclavius, check out the video below. I also have timestamps for different release tools and stretching techniques below for you.

Check Back in

After you released and stretch the muscles listed above, it's time to check if your pain has either gone away or reduced. You can do this by checking back in where your pain level is on a scale of 1-10 when it comes to your shoulder.

If you can, try to describe what the pain feels like to yourself and write it down somewhere. If your number is lower, then congratulations because you just fixed your own Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. But we're not done yet.

Exercises For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome To Keep The Pain From Coming Back

One of the biggest reasons muscles like the Scalenes, Pec Minor, and Subclavius get overactive is because of our bad posture. Bad posture doesn't translate to just sitting up straight; it also has to do with how you stand, sit, or move. When we live on our computers, phones, or behind the wheel, our bodies will adapt to this position, and muscles are what make us move into these positions.

Another way to think about it is, because we are living in the same body patterns all day long, the muscles that put us into these positions "think" we are training them all day long and therefore, gets stronger because it's "working out" more.

Because most of us can't change the way we work or drive, we have to adapt another way to improve our posture and keep these muscles from becoming overactive; and you can do this by training the opposite muscles.

Lower Trapezius

Just like how the Biceps oppose the Triceps, our Lower Trapezius muscles become weak and underactive because we are always "working out" our Pec Minor, Scalenes, and Subclavius from being on computers all day. The Lower Traps helps keep our scapula down and back (the opposite of the muscles you just released), which will help create space and keep those overactive muscles from compressing on the nerves, arteries, and veins.

To workout the Lower Traps properly, make sure to check out the video listed below. I have included several variations for you to pick from. Try to aim for three sets of 12-20 reps at a slow and controlled pace.


So many of us will have some kind of bad posture because of certain aspects of our lives. And at Train and Massage, we believe that bad posture can lead to chronic pain like Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. TOS is a way of classifying the compression of nerves, arteries, and veins within the neck and shoulder area. Chances are, if you have pins and needles going into your shoulder and down your arm, it may be nerves getting compressed due to a postural-structural problem. The good news is, it can be reversed within a short amount of time and a little bit of effort. Here's what you need to do.

First, you need to release and stretch the overactive muscles causing the compression. Those overactive muscles are the Scalenes, Pectoralis Minor, and Subclavius. Only after you released and stretched those muscles to create space for the nerves, then you can exercise the opposite muscles to make sure the opening you just created stays there. The muscle you need to train is the Lower Trapezius. Not only will training the opposite muscle help keep the pain from coming back, but it will also improve your posture.


  • Biel, A. (2009). Trail guide to the body: how to locate muscles, bones and more: instructors field guide. (R. Dorn, Ed.). Boulder, Colo: Books of Discovery.
  • Simons, D. G., Travell, J. G., Simons, L. S., & Travell, J. G. (1999). Travell & Simons' myofascial pain and dysfunction: The trigger point manual. Baltimore (3rd Edition) Williams & Wilkins.
  • Davies, C., & Davies, A. (2013). The trigger point therapy workbook: your self-treatment guide for pain relief. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
  • Lowe, W. (2006) Orthopedic Assessment in Massage Therapy (1st ed.) Daviau Scott
  • Brookebush, B. (2016) Trapezius Activation. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
  • About the author 


    Adam is the owner of Train and Massage and has earned multiple certifications including Human Movement Specialist, Certified Massage Therapist, Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and More.

    {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Use this Bottom Section to Promote Your Offer

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim