Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)


This is a very common condition which gives quite a particular set of symptoms.  One of these symptoms is painful arm/arms when they are held above the head for longer periods of time.  People then have to lower the arm/arms and give them a shakeout as this stops the pain and as it often feels like the arm is going dead, the shaking also helps to alleviate this sensation.  Activities like painting a wall or a ceiling, changing a lightbulb or even blow-drying the hair can be very uncomfortable.  Due to the fact that elevating the arm/arms is so uncomfortable, commonly this condition affects our ability to work – especially in trades such as electricians, painters and decorators, plasterers, builders, scaffolders and hairdressers.

Another common symptom of TOS syndrome is waking up with 'dead' arm/arms.  This can be very alarming as it can range from just an odd sensation of the arm being a bit numb right up to a completely 'dead' arm which doesn't feel like it belongs to us.  People report difficulty using the arm for a few minutes when they first wake up including being unable to turn their alarm off.

So what is this condition and what can be done about it?  It is caused when the neck and shoulder muscles become tight and short and pull up the first rib entrapping either the nerves or blood vessels or both which supply the arms.  This entrapment leads to both the painful sensation when the arms are held above the head and the numbness in the hands and arms in the mornings.  This neck muscle tightness can be caused by repetitively overworking the neck and shoulders at work or playing sports or it could be due to a postural problem in the upper back and neck.  Due to this repetitive strain, people can also report pain and restrictions in the neck and shoulders as well as the arm symptoms.

Osteopaths regularly treat TOS by relaxing the tight muscles around the neck and shoulders which allows the first rib to lower and therefore gives the blood vessels and nerves more space to work properly.  We also give stretches to keep the muscles in a good condition and exercises for improving the posture to prevent this condition from reoccurring in the future.

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Lordswood Osteopathic Clinic

The Lords wood Osteopathic Clinic was established and is run by Sue Jennings, BSc (Hons), Osteopath. The Lordswood Osteopathic Clinic is situated on the ground floor of Lordswood Leisure Centre, North Dane Way, Chatham, with plenty of free parking and disabled access. The clinic is open during the daytime on Monday to Friday, evening appointments available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday evenings. Lordswood Osteopathic Clinic staff are all registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).