Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) can cause pain and numbness in the shoulder, arm, and hands. Where is your thoracic outlet? You will find it at the junction where your neck meets the shoulder area.
Nerves and blood vessels going into the arm and hand from the neck. Nerves come out of the spine through small openings called neural foramina. The nerves and vessels travel between the scalene muscles in the neck. The thoracic outlet opening is between the scalene muscles and the rib cage. The nerves and blood vessels then go under the clavicle, through the armpit and down the arm to the hand.
Reasons for Thoracic outlet syndrome. When the nerves and blood vessels get squeezed, the nerves cry out. There are many reasons why this happened but here are a few.
1.) Pressure on nerves and vessels can happen because they fractured or misaligned clavicle or have the first rib crimping on the nerve, or a herniated disc.
2.) Scalene muscles swollen or scar tissues can also put extra pressure on the nerves and arteries.
3.) Heavy lifting and carrying can bulk up the scalenus muscles to where the nerve and arteries can get squeezed.
4.) Injuries like a car accident can also cause problems that lead to thoracic outlet syndrome. The shoulder harness of the seat belt can strain or tear the muscles. As they heal, scar tissue can build up, putting pressure on the nerves and blood vessels at the thoracic outlet.
5.) Neck and arm positions because of having to hold neck and shoulders in awkward positions, like having to hold their arms up or out for long periods of time. Slouching shoulders can compress the nerves and arteries near the thoracic outlet.
6.) Overweight can cause problems with posture, and women who have very large breasts may also have a droopy posture which is why thoracic outlet syndrome affects three times as many women as men.
Symptoms are pain along the top of the clavicle and shoulder. Pain radiating down the inside edge of the arm. Pain or numbness and tingling of the hand, mostly into the ring and pinky fingers can happen. It can get worse when driving, lifting, carrying, and writing. The arms may also feel tired when held overhead like when you are using a blow dryer. It may be harder to hold and grip things, and you drop things and feel clumsy.
Symptoms related to the blood vessels are not as frequent. If the blood vessels are causing impinged, the arm and shoulder may feel heavy, cold enough to turn blue with swelling. These are serious problems and you should call your medical doctor right away.
Chiropractic can help with many cases of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. First, we will take your medical history and do a thorough physical examination. The more information you have as to when it started, what you were doing when it happens, and what symptoms you are experiencing always help narrow down what is causing the problem. We will do a X-ray. The X-ray could show an extra cervical rib or other problems with the bones and joints. If warranted, we may also ask you to get an MRI for herniation and other soft tissue interference. We may also do nerve studies to find out about the health of the nerves. We may also do a study of the blood vessels, a vascular study depending on symptoms.
So if you are suffering from any of these problems, it would be wise to get it checked out. Call 334-514-7600 for an appointment today.