Do you suffer from muscle weakness, tingling, numbness, or pain in the whole arm? If so, you may have a condition involving nerve compression.

(If your condition is specific to your elbow and hand, it may be the radial, ulnar, or median nerve)

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition involving the compression of nerves (most common), arteries or veins (less common) between the lower neck and the upper chest/armpit.

There are typically 3 common locations of compression:

  1. Neck – between the scalenes muscles
  2. Between the collarbone (clavicle) and the 1st rib
  3. Beneath the chest muscles (pectorals)

Depending on the individual and their lifestyle, there are different causes that can contribute to thoracic outlet syndrome.

  • Stress – can cause us to shallow breathe resulting in increased use of our neck muscles
  • Injury to the neck (ex. motor vehicle accidents, concussions) leading to muscle weakness or spasm.
  • Poor posture
  • Sports/occupations requiring repetitive arm or shoulder movement
  • Dislocation or fractures of the collarbone or 1st rib
  • Muscle imbalance (chest muscle dominance)

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, arm
  • Numbness in the arm
  • Impaired circulation in the arm
  • Decreased grip strength
  • Decreased control in the arm


Because thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms can vary greatly in severity and in the root cause, it is best to immediately see a health care practitioner to properly identify and assist with resolution of the symptoms.

At Movement Performance Centre, our physiotherapists are trained to help resolve thoracic outlet syndrome by assessing and treating each potential site of compression to ensure that the nerve is able to function optimally. Depending on the root cause of the thoracic outlet syndrome, different strategies will be employed to resolve the issue. Possible treatments may include:

  • Stretching and soft tissue release
  • Increasing mobility of the spine
  • Strengthening of the shoulder, back, and neck muscles
  • Identifying and treating factors affecting but are external to the shoulder and neck

At Movement Performance Centre, we will help you locate the source of the symptoms so that you can return optimally to your daily activities and sport. If you have any questions or are unsure if this would benefit you, contact us and we will help guide you in the right direction.

Author: Zachary Hum MScPT BAKin