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My secret weapon to avoid pain and arm numbness

Typically everything you are doing each day is dependent upon your eyes determining where your body is going to follow. As such, you are commonly moving forward (not backward), looking down (toward your devices) and it's rare that you add lateral or rotational movements unless you are working out or playing sports.

As a result, your physical posture then naturally follows the same patterns - tending toward the classic fetal position.

The more your head travels forward off the axis of your spine, the more your shoulders round forward and, due to the leverage of these appendages, the thoracic spine is forced to curve forward.

Did you catch the powerful image I shared last week? Check it out here.

Under Pressure

Recall my #1 golden rule for tackling any area of your health program - it's the dose that makes the poison. If you are a desk jockey - meaning the majority of your time either personally and/or professionally, requires you to sit for several hours a day (and don't forget to add your commute time) - then I'd ask you, 'what dose of sitting are you giving your body each day?' In essence, how much postural debt are you accumulating, and more importantly, what are you doing to pay down that debt?

The anatomy image above illustrates a CRITICAL message as to why you may be getting arm numbness and tingling. The orange muscle highlighted is the pectoralis minor. As it attaches to the coracoid process of the shoulder blade it travels over a neuro-vascular bundle (consisting of the subclavian - artery, nerve and vein). Similar to placing your foot on a hosepipe with running water - the more rounded your shoulders are, the greater the tension this muscle will have and therefore, the more pressure applied to this bundle. The result being a nerve impingement and, if left unaddressed, multiple other symptoms.

The common diagnosis for this type of condition is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (T.O.S.). Symptoms include arm numbness, tingling, cold hands, muscle weakness including loss of grip strength and may even be a contributor or cause of your carpal tunnel symptoms.

Assess it for yourself. You'll need a friend to help you. From a seated position, have your friend take your radial pulse (wrist). Raise your arm overhead, as they hold your pulse. Hold overhead for 30-60 seconds and have your friend identify if the pulse feels weaker or stops completely. If it does this would be a positive test. Repeat on both sides.

If positive, my advice would be to take this seriously and immediately begin to focus and work on the solution. If the pulse remains as strong as it was in a rested position, this would be a negative test and I'd recommend you still invest time in preventing this from becoming symptomatic.

Short-Tight vs. Long-Weak

Each week I discuss these patterns of muscle behavior. We all have them and always will. The goal, from my point of view, should be to aim toward balance as best we can. The best motivator to nudge us in finding balance, is often pain!

With every short-tight muscle or group, there is always an opposing muscle or group, that is being forced into a long-weak position. It's the simple analogy of a tug-of-war situation happening across and between each joint in your body.

It's interesting that most patient's complain about the long-weak muscles being painful. Yet when I palpate and assess, it's the short-tight muscles that are more painful and tense. Let me explain what's happening.

With a short-tight muscle, it actually favors blood flow and the brain is accepting of this relationship. However, long-weak muscles stretch the blood vessels, decrease the blood flow and this state of hypoxia (reduced oxygen to the muscle) is what cries out pain to the brain. This is why it feels good to apply heat, rub or massage a muscle as it stimulates more oxygenated blood to the area and temporarily alleviates the pain.

Moving forward to get to the root of any musculo-skeletal problem, a thorough assessment of these muscle length-tension relationships becomes key.

Restoring Balance in 5 Steps

  1. Move - increase your body temperature and blood flow to all your muscles.

  2. Massage - using a lacrosse ball or foam roller to agitate the muscles.

  3. Mobilize - move the joints in their full range of motion.

  4. Stretch - focus on lengthening the short-tight muscles.

  5. Corrective Exercise - focus on strengthening the long-weak muscles.

Today's article is focused on my #1 corrective exercise for alleviating pressure and relieving arm numbness and tingling.

To strengthen the spino-scapular muscles, I highly recommend the Prone Cobra. My weekly video below will teach you in 1-minute how to perform this exercise. Thereafter, to pay off this postural debt, it becomes a science of frequency, intensity and duration of performing this exercise. More pain = more corrective exercise.

As we age, we commonly have more postural debt which needs to be paid off to prevent pain. I recommend, even if you have no current symptoms, to be proactive and prevent yourself from stress, tension and pain by using my secret weapon!

Any questions, you can reach me at my clinic by phone: 403 589 4645 or email:

Please help me on my mission to relieve stress, tension and pain.

Share this anyone you know that would benefit from this blog :)

Yours In Muscle Health, Jason Barlow, RMT #family #healthy #relax #healthylifestyle #yyc #massage #stressrelief #okotoks

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