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Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome is the term used to describe conditions which involve irritation or compression of nerves and/or blood vessels as they pass through the thoracic outlet.


The thoracic outlet is a narrow space between the collarbone and the first rib and forms a passageway for nerves and blood vessels as they travel down into your arms providing sensation and blood supply. Further narrowing of this passageway as a result of one of many potential causes, results in irritation or compression of nerves and/or blood vessels.



Symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Symptoms may vary depending on the structure that is being irritated or compressed.

  • Nerve irritation and/or compression is associated with diffuse, aching pain in neck, shoulder, arm, or hand. It is often accompanied by numbness and tingling in the forearm and fingers. Weakness in the arm and hand may also be observed if left untreated for a period of time.

  • Blood vessel irritation and/or compression may result in pain that is accompanied by swelling and redness in the arm, if there is reduced blood flowing out of the arm. Alternatively, pain may also be accompanied by coldness in the arm and hand, if there is reduced blood flowing into the arm.

  • These symptoms are often aggravated when performing overhead activities as the action further reduces the space within the thoracic outlet.


Causes of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome may be a result of:

  • An injury or direct trauma into the shoulder, leading to structural and/or biomechanical changes within the shoulder

  • A congenital defect, i.e. abnormal shape of the first rib

  • Poor posture and obesity


How we can help you

At Five Dock Osteopathic and Chiropractic Centre, we provide you with:

  • Physical therapy, which includes soft tissue massage and joint mobilisation/manipulation, to address muscular tightness in and around the shoulder to reduce compression within the thoracic outlet, and restore the range and quality of movement of the shoulder joint

  • Postural exercises to help you stand and sit straighter which maximises the space in the thoracic outlet

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises to train the muscles in and around the shoulder to provide your shoulder with stability while still remaining flexible.

  • Advice and insights to help you start making necessary lifestyle changes, upgrading your workstation layout, and help you look for ways to modify how you perform everyday activities that may be aggravating your symptoms.

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