man with Thoracic Outlet

7 Best Exercises & Stretches for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is an ailment where the nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib suffer from compression leading to discomfort such as pain, tingling sensation, numbness or even weakness for individuals. Multiple reasons could trigger TOS ranging from genetic mutations like extra rib to environmental factors like poor posture/muscle tightness/trauma/repetitive overhead movements . It causes hindrance in daily activities affecting quality of life negatively. Nevertheless, exercises/stretches play a crucial role in providing relief and halting further deterioration. This article outlines seven effective exercises that can be easily incorporated into daily routine either at home or gym for those experiencing TOS symptoms.

1. Neck Side Bend

neck side bends

In order to release any tightness and alleviate pressure caused by compressed nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet, try practicing Neck Side Bends regularly as part of a good stretching routine. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Make sure you sit or stand up straight with relaxed shoulders first
  2. Begin tilting your head slowly toward each shoulder until you feel a brief pull on either side of your neck region alternatively. Remember not to overstretch! 
  3. Aim for 15-30 seconds per stretch
  4. Repeat two-three times daily.

2. Shoulder Rolls

man doing Shoulder Rolls

Consider trying out shoulder rolls as part of your regular wellness routine. Follow these steps:

  1. Sit or stand up straight, ensuring your posture is aligned.
  2. Gradually rotate your shoulders by retracting them upwards, backwards, downwards, and forwards in a circular motion.
  3. Repeat this movement ten times in one direction before reversing directions and repeating another ten times.
  4. For optimal results, perform this exercise two to three times daily. 

By engaging in this activity, you can loosen up any stiffness or tension in the muscles or joints of your shoulders that may be linked to TOS.

3. Chest Opener

woman doing Chest Opener workout

One way to alleviate soreness or stiffness within both chest and shoulders is through practicing the Chest Opener exercise with regularity - an effective way of stretching out these muscle groups while promoting healthy posture habits overall. Here's how it works:

  1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms resting at your sides.
  2. Clasp your hands together behind your back, making sure to straighten your arms as much as possible.
  3. As you lift your chest, pull your shoulder blades together gently while pulling your arms away from your body.
  4. Take notice of the stretch across your chest and shoulders while holding this position for 15 to 30 seconds. 

4. Scapular Squeeze

If you are struggling with TOS or poor posture in general, scapular squeezes should be a staple in your daily routine. Not only does it target those tricky muscles located between our shoulder blades that are often underused but it helps increase stability in our upper frame while stretching out those stubborn thoracic outlet areas too! Here’s how to do it

  1. Sit or stand straight with both arms by side ready to begin engaging these crucial areas. 
  2. Concentrate on steadily squeezing those shoulder blades together- making sure to keep that pencil feeling between them
  3. Hold it for 5 steady seconds.
  4. Release gently
  5. Repeat 10-15 times per session, two or three times a day.

5. Doorway Stretch

If you're experiencing tightness in the muscles located at the front of your shoulders, you might benefit from trying out the Doorway Stretch exercise which helps provide relief from TOS symptoms:

  1. Begin by standing in front of an open doorway; then position one arm on each side of the door frame at shoulder level, making certain that your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle while placing your hands flat against the wall. 
  2. With a slight lean forward, stretch and consequently feel a nice yet firm pull across your chest area as well as your shoulders while keeping focus on ensuring that both heads - neck and straight meanwhile aligned with spine posture remains sternly kept intact during duration hold time which lasts for around half a minute or therein plus minus five seconds!
  3. Remembering not to overstretch yourself or compromise formality would guide action returns towards starting point promptly after said hold period has elapsed without undue strain being put upon involved joints/muscles/etc
  4. Be consistent by repeating this simple routine two or three times throughout day-to-day life so results can build up steadily over time - definitely worth trying out if suffering from TOS distresses in search of solutions to mitigate such discomfort.
  1. Thoracic Extension

A simple exercise called Thoracic Extension can unlock significant benefits by improving upper back mobility that has a direct impact on the positioning of shoulders and ribs.

  1. To begin performing it, use a chair with a rolled-up towel or lie down on the floor with a foam roller placed behind your upper back for support.
  2. Then, grip both hands behind the head while maintaining elbow positions at an outward angle.
  3. Gently extend backward over towel/foam while looking upwards towards wall/ceiling to feel stretching sensations in chest & upper trunk regions
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds before returning upright posture again by reversing extension movement direction backward.
  5. Repeat these steps along specific regions where the thoracic spine needs stretching.

7. Nerve Glides

For those who struggle with nerve pain or irritation in their thoracic outlet region, try out this body mobilization exercise! It's recommended you do so sitting or standing- ensuring you maintain good posture with relaxed shoulders. 

  1. Beginning by holding one arm across your chest firmly using your other hand as support throughout each repetition
  2. Turn that held-up palm towards the sky and lift upwards towards parallel with your head maintaining gentle resistance along both areas (your neck and arm).
  3. Ensure you twist away from said-arm's direction taking note of any pulling sensations along these areas before holding still for several seconds. 
  4. Slowly lower back into our initial starting location.
  5. Proceed onto ten reps per arm while making sure you hold that same form we just worked through here each time around.
  6. To boost its effects, focus on completing this sequence two-three times daily.


In light of continued discomfort caused by thoracic outlet syndrome leading to pain, weakness, numbness or tingling sensations throughout one's shoulder area all the way down to their hand- there are remedies! A series of swift yet effective exercises and stretches as outlined here can bring about significant improvement. Specifically targeting muscles and joints responsible for this uncomfortable affliction can substantially reduce symptom recurrence over time provided one engages in these activities on a routine basis without fail. If any of these activities are aggravating the condition worse you should seek guidance from your physician or physical therapist especially, when doubtful.

James Freeman


Meet James Freeman, a California native whose passion for fitness emerged during challenging times, reshaping his life. With over two decades of coaching experience, he's not just a coach; he's a real-life example, shedding over 100 pounds in a journey to a healthier lifestyle. Beyond his coaching career, James is passionate about inspiring at-risk youth and promoting wellness in schools. In his downtime, he enjoys swimming and cycling, connecting with nature. Join him on his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles for insights into his empowering fitness journey.