Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Juggling Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) 101

Even with stretches of relatively symptom free days, I have learned the hard way I must stay on top of managing any symptoms that do begin to show up, and juggle several things to help keep symptoms at bay.
Here are a few tips I'd like to share that may get you thinking about what you might incorporate into your routine to help alleviate your TOS symptoms.

Do not wear heavy winter wool coat, especially for several hours at a time.
Go for a thermal but lighter winter coat.

Do not hang purses, bags, computer bags off your shoulders - ever.
Opt for hand held, and limit use of those to only when necessary.
Some women would never belive it, but it IS possible, and very freeing, to carry necessities only in your pockets.
I have sewn a small patch of velcro onto the inside of one coat pocket to keep my small card, money wallet from falling out.

Do not wear heavy beaded necklaces or scarves made of heavy material.

Do not wear your hair in a pony-tail, at any length, but especially if it is long and heavy. It forces you to carry your head in slightly a different position, taxing your already stressed neck and shoulder muscles, especially when sitting or riding in a car.

Do not wear very heavy winter sweaters. Opt for light layers.

For the Laides-Do not wear Bra straps tight, and avoid racer-back style bras as the straps push in toward neck/brachial plexus area.
Push straps to outer edge of shoulder, or invest in a good strapless bra.

Do not force yourself to do the many upper body exercises you see suggested for health and weightloss.
Focus on what you can do. Walking and cardio is good for people on a TOS journey. Per my own doctor's recommendation, for the rest of my life I should avoid pull-ups, push-ups, and gym machines that repetitively strain the neck and shoulder area...or risk a flare-up. Even Thera-bands cause flare up for me.
No excuse to avoid the sit ups though;)

Do not look down at laptop or computer screen. Get it up at eye-level! Use couch pillows, books. Don't block the computer air vent, but get it up at eye level for better head neck upper body posture.

Do not drink excessive caffiene; exacerbates any condition dealing with nerves.
Cut back, go decaf, find a new beverage- it does help.

Sleep with the right pillow for you, which may be no pillow at all.
A too-fluffy pillow is terrible for the TOS juggler.
A small towel rolled up under your neck, a small travel pillow, any of the fancy cervical pillows sold at bed stores, find what works for you.

Learn how to politely inform people that it is painful to hug when greeting.
Also, the friend who likes to drape an arm over your shoulder, no no.
Maybe become known for your cheery handshake or high-five, fist bump, whatever.

Do not drive with your head forward, pull back. This tip has SAVED me.
I did not realise I was driving like that, with my head sticking forward, stressing my poor neck.

Look for more tips in Juggling TOS 102...and Juggling TOS 103...and 104!