The Ultimate Guide for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome




Do you have pain in your shoulder that goes down the arm and into the hand? Does your pain create weakness, tingling, burning, or even numbness throughout your arm? If so, then you might have thoracic outlet syndrome.

In this ultimate guide, you will learn what thoracic outlet syndrome is, what causes it in your daily life, how to treat it in multiple ways, and more.


What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome, or TOS for short, is a way to group together a few different disorders that happen in the lower neck and upper chest.

These problems in the upper chest and lower neck are usually created through compression or irritation of the nerves and blood vessels that pass from the neck into the chest and into the hands. It can also be from an injury to the area as well.

nerve diagram

3 Types of TOS and what they feel like

There are 3 types of TOS that you may develop, with the possibility of having a mix of the 3.

Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome

This is one of the most common types of TOS, which is when you have compression or irritation on a series of nerves called the brachial plexus. These nerves come from your spine, go into the shoulder, and all the way down to the hand.

Signs you may have Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome.

  • Having numbness or tingling in the arm or fingers.
  • Having a weakening grip.

Venous thoracic outlet syndrome

This is when you have compression or irritation of the veins, which may result in a blood clot.

Signs you may have Venous thoracic outlet syndrome.

  1. Blood clots in the upper area of the body.
  2. Your arm is getting tired from activities.
  3. Your hand is turning a bluish color.
  4. One or more of your fingers turn pale or abnormal color.
  5. Arm pain and swelling.

Arterial thoracic outlet syndrome

The least common type of TOS is when you have compression or irritation of the arteries under the collarbone, which may result in an aneurysm.

Signs you may have Arterial thoracic outlet syndrome.

  1. Having cold fingers or hands.
  2. Having a weak or no pulse in the affected arm.
  3. Bluish color in one or more of the fingers or entire hand.

What Can Cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

TOS is most likely caused by compression of the nerve and blood vessels, creating irritation. Now this compression can happen from multiple things like:

  • Weightlifting and shortening the muscles around the nerves and blood vessels.
  • Sports that use a lot of shoulder movements like baseball, volleyball, and more.
  • Sleeping problems that create kinks in the neck, which may also “kink” the nerves and blood vessels.
  • Being stressed or depressed may also force you into a curled-up state, which in turn naturally compresses the muscles in the front of the body, like the chest and neck muscles.
  • Having poor postures like forward head posture or rounded shoulders can also create compression by shortening the muscles in the front of the body.
  • Being born with an extra 1st rib which can also create compression being close to the nerves and blood vessels.

Of course, other problems can cause TOS like neck, chest, or back injuries and even tumors or lymph nodes enlarged around those areas.

Which Muscles are Creating your TOS?

Just because you feel pain in the arm doesn’t mean it starts from there. Find out where your pain is really coming from with these 4 assessments.

These assessments will help you locate which muscle(s) are creating your pain with compression so you can release them and get instant relief.

Download our free assessments by clicking on the button below.

Some of the main muscles that can create compression on the nerves and blood vessels is the:

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Pec Minor/Major
  3. 3
  4. 4

How to Treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Most of the time, TOS is going to be diagnosed by your doctor after performing a complete physical exam, which may include tests for spinal diseases as well.

After you are diagnosed, you may end up going through physical therapy to help increase your range of motion, improve your posture, and strengthen the weaker muscles. (We can also do all of that here, except diagnosing you).

You may also be given medications to help with the pain, and worst-case scenario, you may have to go through surgery.

How We Treat TOS

We can help you in 3 different ways to relieve your TOS pain.

The first is by going through our 21-Day TOS Challenge, an online program that walks you step by step on how to relieve your pain fast.

You can click on the button below to learn more.

The second option is getting an in-home sports massage with us. Our massage is very popular for releasing the tension in the tight muscles that could be compressing onto the nerves or blood vessels.

The 3rd option you have to begin relieving your pain is to follow along with this free video. This is one of our most popular videos, and we get nothing but great responses.

About the author, Adam

Adam is the owner of Train and Massage and has earned multiple certifications including Human Movement Specialist, Certified Massage Therapist, Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and More.

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