How To Relieve Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and Computer Neck, Shoulder and Hip Pain

There is always a full body pattern of muscle tension that causes functional muscle pain.

The muscular system and body operates as a whole, not a series of parts. When we move it is never just one muscle that lifts our arm, brings our leg forward or bends our back.  Beneath our conscious awareness there is a perfectly balanced process of sensing and moving between agonist, antagonist and synergist muscles that allows us to coordinate each movement.  If one muscle group contracts, its antagonist lengthens to allow the movement to happen. This is how we move through gravity efficiently and, we hope, with the least possible effort or pain. The brain controls us as a synergistic, constantly recalibrating system, similar to the underlying software of a computer. If the computer is moving slowly and sluggishly, suspect the software; it’s time to update and reboot. So it is with the body.

If, due to overuse, repetitive action or injury and accidents, we change the way that we move,  we can develop the condition of sensory motor amnesia (tight, “frozen” muscles that the brain has forgotten how to release). This means that your brain invariably contracts not just the muscles needed to complete the action, but also other groups of muscles that compensate to help us move. This “dance” between muscles stops working and both agonist and antagonist muscles become tightly contracted, it’s as if we are stuck in a vise.

In my last post I wrote about hip pain and how the posture of leaning and slumping into one’s dominant side to reach for and use the computer mouse, can create hip pain. This action contributes to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and can also create shoulder and neck pain as one hunches, draws the shoulder forward, collapses through the ribcage and waist and concentrates on the work (and computer screen) at hand.

Try these corrective Somatic Exercises for relief of shoulder and hip pain from “computer-itis” and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Here is a simple protocol for releasing, relaxing and re-training the muscles that become painfully tight from excessive computer work. This is useful for people like me (I’m not a big fan of computers, so I tend to bring a certain level of tension to my computer work), graphic artists, graphics, film or music editors, data input workers and those whose work is simply repetitive.

Arch and flatten – allow the neck to move along with the movement.

Side bend – allow the waist muscles to contract and slowly lengthen.

Side Bend variation. In the video below is a Somatic Exercise that helps to release and relax the muscles involved in Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. TOS causes tingling into the fingers and symptoms similar to angina in some people. The problem lies in the fact that the muscles of the lower neck – specifically the scalenes, and upper chest are tightly contracted. This put pressure on the thoracic outlet, the space between your neck and upper chest where many blood vessels and nerves are found. I have used the Somatic Exercise below to get rid of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in my own body. How did I create it in the first place? See the explanation below…

This is a full body pandiculation of exactly the muscles that “collapse” and tighten when you slump, jut your head forward to look at your computer screen and reach for your mouse:

Washrag – to open up the front of the body and connect the center of the body to the shoulders and hips.

Other wonderful Somatic Exercises that can help to battle “computer-itis” are the steeple twist, flower, neck and neck variations (from Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders).

Martha is available for corporate presentations on pain relief and workplace injury prevention. Save healthcare dollars and prevent worker injuries from repetitive muscle strain and overuse. For more information email Martha.

6 thoughts on “How To Relieve Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and Computer Neck, Shoulder and Hip Pain

  1. Thanks so much for this. I changed my mouse hand about 6 months ago to give the right side a break, so I really felt it on the left…wonderful release! I will put this into my pre-bedtime routine.

  2. I have sacral torsion and si joint pain. My right hip rotates anterior while my left hip rotates posterior causing right side si joint pain. What exercises would be a good starting point for me. I have pain all the way up my back. I guess through compensation.

    • Hi Peter,

      The best place to start is, as for everyone, at the beginning! It sounds as if you have an habiutated “Trauma Reflex” occurs in response to accidents, injuries, surgeries, falls, etc.
      You need to learn to release the muscles of the back, waist and abdominals, which, when contracted unconsciously and involuntarily, create the torsion you’re describing. Special focus on regaining balance and coordination through the waist muscles and trunk rotators is necessary as well. The side bend, washrag and human X are particularly helpful – though you also need to learn to release the back muscles, which work together with the waist.

      You can learn the basic movements on your own with my book and/or “basics” DVD…or you can do a series of Skype sessions (a better solution) in which I can assess you and guide you through the most important movements to address your particular issue.

      If you live near a certified Hanna Somatic (Clinical Somatic) Educator, your best option would be to get a series of hands-on sessions. These sessions confer rapid and more specific changes/improvements. Let me know where you live and I can refer you.

      All the best,

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