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Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Do You Have It?

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Do You Have It?

Written by Sophie Xie, DPT

Do you wonder why your hand tingling or numbness keeps returning?

Are you troubled by worsening weakness and heaviness in your arms and hands?

Do you have difficulty brushing your hair or applying make-up?

Keep reading to find out whether you may have thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), and how to get better without surgery. Thoracic outlet syndrome is characterized by pain, numbness and heaviness in arms and hands caused by the impingement of nerves or blood vessel in your neck, chest and armpit area by stiff muscles or stuck ribs.

Ask yourself the following questions: Do my symptoms get worse if I’m doing activities above my shoulders?

Shoulder positioning is a simple and great way to tell TOS apart from other causes of similar symptoms, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or neck impingement. When we wash our hair, clean out cabinets or write on a white board, our shoulder elevates and stretches nerves and blood vessels. It should not be a problem in normal circumstances, unless you have TOS, and these structures are impinged and do not stretch well.

If TOS is the culprit of your symptoms, you may feel a mixture of the following, often within a minute or even a few second of shoulder elevation:

  • Feeling increased pain or soreness, often vague, in shoulder or around your collar bone
  • Arm becomes heavy and fatigued, like falling asleep
  • Fingers are become numb and may cause you to whatever is in your hand such as your pen, or brush.

Have I overworked my arms lately?

TOS may be caused by severe muscle tightness in your neck and shoulders. Do you have job that requires you to scrub, wipe, lift, throw, or type over a stretch of time? Have you started a new project that would require reaching, painting, pulling/pushing that you are not use to? Repetitive motions or strenuous shoulder/arm activities cause muscle tightness that contribute to TOS.

This may be treated with proper muscle release and stretching to affected tissues.

Do I have history of shoulder or neck pain?

Pain causes us to tense up and guard. Pain also causes us to be weak and inactive. In some people, TOS may have resulted from a chronically painful shoulder or neck, or the worsening of existing injury.

You can stop the worsening by starting rehab for your injury and find pain relief.

 Do I have poor posture?

Do you sit or stand with your chin pointed forward and your shoulders rounded? Do you find yourself slouching and your body resists straightening up? Weakness in postural muscles exposes our musculoskeletal system to imbalance patterns that cause a nerve impingement on a fundamental level. The best way to reverse the imbalance is through targeted stretching and core strengthening. When proper postural alignment has been restored, space will open up for the nerves and blood vessels to function properly.

At Lilly Physical Therapy, we provide comprehensive treatment plans for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome to bring you fast symptom relief and long term recovery and improved function. It is our specialty to treat each customer and patient as a whole person, and provide the most well rounded healing experience and service. We use advanced manual skills, cutting edge technology and out-of-the-box solutions and our patients love it!

Please give us a call to schedule an appointment and start feeling better today- you deserve it!(425) 224-2476

Lilly Physical Therapy

24007 Edmonds Way, Edmonds WA 98026