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Between 7 percent to 47 percent of “working age” adults experience shoulder pain at least from time- to-time, especially those who work in office settings and have occupations requiring use of their arms in elevation (like hairdressers/barbers, switchboard operators, assembly line workers, etc.) (1) Although thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) has always been considered a somewhat “rare” condition that causes shoulder/arm/chest pains, there’s some evidence that it’s become more common over the past several decades. One possible explanation for the rising rates of TOS is that many adults now sit for far too many hours of the day, due to having sedentary “desk jobs.” Sitting all day is problematic on its own, but most people also have poor posture, contributing to tightness and also certain chronic diseases.

On the other hand, TOS can also affect athletes and certain types of manual labor workers who use their arms and hands in repetitive ways — including weight-lifters, cyclists, pitchers, construction workers, etc. These groups of people are at an increased risk for thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms including tingling in the hands, weakness in the arms, neck straining, and collarbone or shoulder pain.

What can be done for thoracic outlet syndrome? Physical therapy, specific stretches and regular exercise are key components of thoracic outlet syndrome treatment. Other steps that can help to prevent and treat TOS include fixing your workstation setup, improving your posture, stretching regularly, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

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