By Faye Martins
If you’ve ever had pain that radiated from your shoulder to your fingers, you probably know about thoracic outlet syndrome. Although the condition is common, it can be difficult to manage. Yoga can help, but there is a thin line between dealing with the problem and making it worse.
What is thoracic outlet syndrome?
Thoracic outlet syndrome refers to any disorder that results in the compression of blood vessels or nerves between the first rib and the collarbone. Common symptoms include pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm and tingling or weakness in the hand or fingers. Treatments usually start with finding and eliminating the cause of discomfort, factors that run the gamut from repetitive use and trauma to posture and health conditions.
How does Yoga help?
One of the keys to preventing and dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome is maintaining good posture and keeping the body in alignment, and Yoga does both. Yoga relaxes muscles and lengthens the spine; it also increases circulation and rids the body of toxins. A well-trained Yoga teacher knows how to choose poses that release entrapped nerves and blood vessels without going too far and causing muscles to spasm.
Safe Exercises for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Designing exercises for a pinched nerve in the neck and shoulder is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The same pose that releases tension when modified to individual needs can be harmful if held for too long or over-extended. Student feedback and knowledgeable yoga instruction are critical to success.
These gentle Yogic exercises are a safe place to start. Begin slowly, and gradually increase the number of repetitions.
• Neck stretch
Sit in a comfortable position. Then raise your right arm and stretch toward the left, placing your hand on the left side of your head. Stretch your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold for five seconds and release. Repeat on the other side of the head.
• Shoulder Roll
Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and around in a circular motion. Repeat eight times to reduce tension.
• Chin Tuck
Sit up straight with your shoulders held back. Bring your chin straight back. Hold for a few seconds. Relax. Repeat, and apply two fingers to the chin to lightly add pressure. Relax.
• Shoulder Blade Stretch
Lie on your belly and clasp your hands together behind your back. Gently lift your chest and head off the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades and keep your chin tucked toward the chest. Hold for a few seconds. Release.
• Corner Stretch
Stand in the corner of the room with your hands against the wall at shoulder height. Lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold the stretch for five seconds.
Beware of poses that strain the neck and shoulders, and stop if you feel any discomfort. You want to gradually release tight muscles and knots while making them stronger and less likely to spasm.
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