What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
At our office, a large portion of our client base work at a desk in offices throughout Centennial and Denver Tech Center. One of the most common complaints we hear from these clients is that they suffer from frequent episodes of numbness and tingling in their hands. These are symptoms of a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
This condition typically occurs when the nerves that travel from our neck down into our arms become compressed. Nerves are responsible for constantly transmitting signals between the brain and body that help us detect sensation, initiate muscle movement, and regulate temperature, and process information.
The compression of a nerve has a similar effect to when you have a kink in a garden hose, causing reduced flow further down. If that flow of information is impeded, it can lead to a wide variety of symptoms in the body. The most common symptoms associated with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome are numbness in the upper extremities, dull aching pain in neck and arms, weakness in the arms/shoulders, and cold hands.
What Causes Nerves to Become Compressed?
It can often result from physical trauma associated with whiplash injuries or sports injuries. However, it is most commonly associated with repetitive stresses involving the neck and shoulders. This applies to both athletes and office workers. People who play sports such as softball or football can create stress through frequent throwing motions with the arm.
People who work in an office a susceptible to poor posture where the shoulders roll forward and the head sits in front of your shoulders. All of these stresses will potentially cause over-stretching of neck musculature. In response to this repetitive trauma, the muscle tissue begins to produce scar tissue to increase strength. Accumulation of this scar tissue between the collar bone and first rib, cause the nerve impingement involved in Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
How to Treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Surgical procedures or conservative therapy. Conservative therapy is typically the first course of action that is advised. The goal is to not only remove the impingement and restore proper motion in the neck and shoulders but to also strengthen the muscles that allow you to hold you head and shoulders in the proper position. Chiropractic therapy for this condition involves the manipulation of the first rib, shoulder, and lower regions of the neck.
This will increase joint movement in the area of impingement that often contributes to the problem. Massage techniques can focus on reducing the scar tissue of the affected area. At Spine Body Collective we are also focused on providing corrective exercises that our clients can perform at home to improve overall body balance. In this case, we focus on exercises that will reduce the postural stresses often found at work.
In addition to receiving therapy for this condition, there are also lifestyle activities that should be modified to reduce symptoms. Some of these activities include the following:
- Adjust your workstation to reduce postural stresses. These involve simple modifications such as changing your desk or computer screen height.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects with, or on the shoulders. This should include reducing the weight of a purse or backpack.
- Reduce aggravating repetitive movements involved with exercise or athletics.