Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, or TOS, affects millions of people each year. TOS occurs when blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and thoracic outlet are compressed. This causes pain in your shoulders and neck as well as numbness in your fingers.
Common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome include physical trauma from a car accident, repetitive injuries, anatomical defects, and pregnancy. Thoracic outlet syndrome is also more common in young adults, between 20 and 40 years old.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Symptoms
Thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms can vary, depending on which structures are compressed. When the nerves are compressed, signs of TOS present as:
- Muscle wasting in the base of your thumb (Gilliatt-Summer hand)
- Numbness in your arm or fingers
- Pain in your neck, shoulder, or hand
- Weakening grip
When veins or arteries are being compressed, the symptoms may be:
- Discoloration of your hand
- Arm pain and swelling
- Blood clot in veins in the upper area of your body
- Weak or no pulse in the affected arm
- Cold fingers, hand or arms
- Throbbing lump near your collarbone
Chiropractic care has been proven to help many patients with TOS symptoms. Traditional treatments include stretching, manual trigger-point therapy, and myofascial anchor-and-stretch release. Other treatments include:
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Laser therapy
- Massage therapy
- Soft tissue therapy
- Ergonomic counseling
- Upper cervical chiropractic adjustments
Home exercises can help relieve the pain and care for thoracic outlet syndrome. Follow these exercises:
Scalene stretch: Sit and hook both hands behind your back. Lower your left shoulder and tilt your head towards the right until you feel a stretch. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds. Then repeat this movement on the opposite side.
Thoracic extension: Sit in a chair and clasp both arms behind your head. Gradually arch backward and look up towards the ceiling. Repeat 10 times.
Pectoralis stretch: Stand in an open doorway, extend both arms to the side, and place your hands on the door frame, slightly higher than head height. Little by little lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold this position for 15 -30 seconds.