Do you experience pain or numbness in your arms or hands?
If so, you may suffer from thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). This condition occurs when the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet, the space between your collarbone and first rib in your shoulder region, become compressed. TOS can be a debilitating condition, but there are treatment options available.
Osteopathy is a form of manual physical therapy that focuses on the musculoskeletal system and its relationship to the body as a whole. It can be an effective treatment for TOS, as it aims to restore proper alignment and function to the affected area.
If you are struggling with TOS, seeking proper treatment to alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life is essential. Osteopathy is a gentle, non-invasive approach that can help address the underlying issues causing your TOS.
What is thoracic outlet syndrome?
It occurs when the neck and shoulder muscles become tight and short, pulling up the first rib and entrapping either the nerves or blood vessels that supply the arms or both.
This entrapment causes both the painful sensation when the arms are held above the head and the morning numbness in the hands and arms.
This neck muscle tightness can be caused by overtaxing the neck and shoulders at work or while playing sports, or it can be caused by an upper back and neck postural problem.
People may experience pain and restrictions in the neck and shoulders, as well as symptoms in the arms, as a result of this repetitive strain.
The 3 types of thoracic outlet syndrome
1. Neurogenic TOS
When the nerves leading from the neck to the arm (the brachial plexus) become compressed, neurogenic TOS occurs. More than 90% of the cases are neurogenic.
2. Venous TOS
Venous TOS occurs when a vein becomes clogged, resulting in upper-body thrombosis. Only 5% of cases are venous.
3. Arterial TOS
When an artery is compressed, it causes TOS. Only about 1% of the cases are arterial.
The venous and arterial thoracic outlet syndromes are sometimes called vascular thoracic outlet syndrome. A combination of venous and arterial thoracic outlet syndrome can also occur.
Different types of thoracic outlet syndrome necessitate different treatments.
Common symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome
- Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause shoulder, arm and hand pain and numbness.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause either nerve or blood vessel compression symptoms or both.
- The most common is nerve compression, which causes pain, altered sensation, weakness and, in rare cases, loss of muscle tone in the arm.
- The venous type compression causes swelling, pain, and a change in circulation, which causes sweating, blue-tinged discoloured skin, and arm blotchiness.
- The arterial type compression causes pain, coldness and pallor in the arm. These could occur separately or concurrently.
Common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome
- Tight muscles cause nerve or artery compression.
- Hypertonic neck and chest muscles brought on by repetitive arm movements.
- An artery injury caused by a bony abnormality.
- A vein injury or compression.
- A congenital disorder.
Osteopathic treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome
One of our osteopaths at Foundation Health Osteopathy will conduct a comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan for your symptoms. We use specific tests to determine whether your symptoms are caused by thoracic outlet syndrome or another condition.
Osteopaths treat TOS regularly by relaxing the tight muscles around the neck and shoulders, allowing the first rib to lower and giving the blood vessels and nerves more room to function correctly.
Soft tissues, joint mobilisation, and stretching can all be used to help reduce muscle tension around the thoracic outlet.
These techniques may aid in promoting blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which may aid in the reduction of inflammation and swelling.
Your Osteopath will provide advice on some daily changes you can make to help reduce symptoms.
The importance of treatment to improve range of motion and posture cannot be overstated. We prescribe some basic exercises to help with abdominal breathing, posture correction and postural strengthening, which are essential components of thoracic outlet syndrome recovery.
Strengthening your shoulder and back muscles is critical for long-term relief while stretching your shoulder and neck muscles to open the thoracic outlet space will provide symptomatic relief and pain relief.
Furthermore, we provide stretches to keep the muscles in good shape and exercises to improve posture to prevent this condition from recurring. These exercises performed over time relieve pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the thoracic outlet.
Final thoughts on treating thoracic outlet syndrome with osteopathy
If you're struggling with thoracic outlet syndrome, osteopathy may be the solution you've been searching for. With a focus on holistic, non-invasive treatments, osteopathy can help you reduce pain, improve mobility and get back to living your life to the fullest.
Don't let thoracic outlet syndrome hold you back any longer—consider giving osteopathy a try today.
Book an appointment at Foundation Health for osteopathic treatment for your thoracic outlet syndrome.