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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Finding Relief: Chiropractic Solutions for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Have you been feeling some strange sensations in your neck, shoulder, or arm lately? Maybe it's a tingling sensation that just won't go away, or perhaps you've noticed some swelling or weakness in your arm. If you've been experiencing any of these symptoms, along with pain or discomfort in your upper body, you might be wondering if something's up. Well, it's possible that you could be dealing with something called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, or ‘TOS’ for short. But don't worry, you're not alone, we're here to help you every step of the way. Call 0413 774 399 to make an appointment with Dr Claire. But in the meantime, let's arm ourselves with information.


What Is TOS?

TOS comprises of a group of disorders resulting in compression of the neurovasculature exiting the thoracic outlet. It can be sub-classified into neurogenic TOS (nTOS), venous TOS (vTOS), and arterial TOS (aTOS) depending on the structures affected.


Okay – let’s think about it this way… Your body is a bustling highway of nerves and blood vessels, with traffic constantly flowing from your neck down to your arms. But sometimes, there's a traffic jam in a place called the thoracic outlet – a narrow passageway between your lower neck and shoulder region. When things get crowded in this area, it can lead to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. If the nerves are affected, we classify it as nTos, if it's veins we call it vTos and if the arteries are getting squeezed we call it, you guessed it - aTos.

What causes this traffic jam? Well, it could be anything from muscle tightness or poor posture to an extra rib or injury from repetitive movements. But trauma, particularly car accidents and whiplash are very common culprits. (Yet another reason to make sure you get yourself checked out properly after any fender benders.) To diagnose TOS, we'll ask about your symptoms and medical history. Then, we’ll get hands-on with a physical exam, checking for tender spots or changes in your pulse. On the odd occasion, we may use or refer you for imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs. Think of it as taking a peek under the hood to see what's causing all that traffic – once we know the problem, we can work on finding the best way to get things moving smoothly again!


So How Do You Treat It?

It depends on the severity, cause, and type of TOS. Research shows that a non-invasive approach is effective for most patients. Exercises aimed at strengthening and lengthening postural muscles of the back and shoulder, applied heat, massage, controlled stretching, dry needling and ergonomic adjustments make the world of difference. Why? Because a well-aligned spine and neuromuscular system alleviates compression of neurovascular structures in the thoracic outlet. This is where we come in. Think of the chiropractors at [insert clinic name here] as the traffic controllers of your body, gently guiding your spine back into alignment and clearing up the congestion in your thoracic outlet. Of course, in more severe cases other interventions might be required (especially if veins are involved.) If that’s the case, we’ll refer you to other health professionals and be there to support you through rehabilitation. In extreme cases, surgery might be the way to go (if you happened to have been born with an extra rib, for example).



What is it with chiropractors and all the exercises and stretches? Well, it’s not often that you have the power to change the structure of your body for yourself. But through exercises, stretches, improved posture and ergonomic adjustments you can create more room in that congested thoracic outlet. Why wouldn’t you make the most of that superpower?!? Here’s a sneak peek…


Thoracic Extension Stretch

•     Step 1: Find a sturdy chair and sit on the edge with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed.

•     Step 2: Place your hands behind your head, interlacing your fingers gently. Elbows should be pointing outward.

•     Step 3: Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, gently lean back into the chair, arching your upper back and bringing your elbows backward. Keep your chin tucked in slightly to avoid straining your neck.

•     Step 4: Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, feeling a stretch across the front of your chest and shoulders.

•     Step 5: Slowly return to the starting position as you exhale, releasing the stretch.

•     Step 6: Repeat this stretch 2-3 times, gradually increasing the duration of each hold as tolerated.

Remember to perform this exercise gently and smoothly, avoiding any sudden or jerky movements. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop immediately and consult your chiropractor before continuing.



So, if you’re experiencing pain, tingling, weakness or even swelling in your arms and upper body, reach out to Dr Claire by calling 0413 774 399 to schedule an appointment. Let's guide you towards better health and wellness. And don’t forget to follow us on social media for more helpful tips and updates. Facebook

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