Stretches for Sore Shoulders and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome


We  have some very effective exercises and stretches to help relieve and strengthen sore shoulders that are accompanied with neck pain and symptoms in the arms.  

If you have a combination of the symptoms listed below you may be suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or T.O.S.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome arises from a combination of  issues in the neck, chest and top rib. The brachial plexus nerves and / or subclavian artery which supply the arms are compressed at the front of the shoulder. As a result one will usually experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Arm pain
  • Numbness and tingling of the fingers
  • If the subclavian artery and or vein are compressed there will be impaired circulation to the extremities which can cause cold and pale fingers.

T.O.S. is commonly caused by repetitive overhead work like that done by teachers or mechanics and sleeping on your arm under your head or pillow routinely. Injuries, physical trauma from a car accidents or swelling associated with pregnancy can also cause T.O.S. Many times a specific cause cannot be found.

Nerve glides  

For relief of your symptoms it is helpful to stretch out  the muscles surrounding the nerves to reduce tension on the nerves. Nerve glides are exercises that aim to restore mobilisation of peripheral nerves which run along your arm. This is important because an injured nerve is not able to glide normally through its surrounding sheath and consequently can cause sharp pain or a deep ache in the arm. The following nerve glides will stretch out your ulnar, median and radial nerves,  and will help relieve pain in the shoulder, particularly if it's related to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  

No, we are not trying to make you look like Batman, this is a great nerve glide: you will feel a stretch from the back of your upper arm, down the forearm and into little finger. On both hands, touch index fingertip to thumb to make a circle, keep fingers 3, 4 and 5 straight. This should look similar to an ‘okay’ sign. Raise arms and rotate hands and forearms (put your palms up and touch your fingertips to your chin to help guide you if necessary) until you make that Batman mask. You may only bring your hand up to your chin to start.

This one is less Batman but will still do super things for your nerves. Bending at the elbow, raise your arm at your side, palm facing out. Bend your head to the opposite side ( away for your hand) and extend the arm so it is straight to elicit a deep stretch. Hold for a stretch for 10- 20 seconds then repeat 5 times slowly.

To stretch the nerve on the opposite side, repeat the exercise above but with your palm up.

This one is the simplest of all! Stand with arm stretched straight in front of you, palm up. Use your opposite hand to pull your hand and fingers back and hold. Perform 10 repetitions with each arm. Easy!


Pectoralis Stretches

These stretch out muscles in your chest connecting to your shoulders.

This stretch can be done anywhere, even at your desk. Interlock your hands behind your back, keeping your arms straight. Then raise them as high as you can until you feel a comfortable stretch through your chest and biceps.  Keep your body in an upright position.  Hold 20-30 seconds.  Repeat 2-3 times.

This one is simple and relaxing. While stretching the pectorals, you are also stretching your upper back, neck, shoulders and lower back. Place a foam roller, or alternatively a rolled up towel, on the ground and lay down with the roller lined up along your spine. Balance with your knees up and feet slightly apart. Stretch your arms out to your sides, palms up and elbows bent 90 degrees. Make any little adjustments you need to until you find a comfortable position and hold for 3-5 minutes or as long as comfortable.

Scalenes Stretch

You should feel this stretch in your neck muscles connecting to your shoulders.

SHoulder Stretches  Head tilt Wellingotn Chiropractor.jpg

Put your right arm behind your back. Tilt your left ear towards your left shoulder. Using your left hand on the right side of your head, move your head so your nose is pointing at your right hip. You will feel the stretch along the right side of your neck. Hold for 1 minute and repeat 3 times. Perform again with the opposite side.


If you  love these stretches and want more or think another type of exercises might suit you better, you can read: Stretches for sore shoulders and rotator cuff injuries.

-Be Well