Osteopathy can be very effective in relieving nerve compression problems. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a nerve-compression problem that benefits from Osteopathic treatment.

TOS refers to a collection of complex symptoms involving different tissues located in the thoracic outlet (which is situated just behind the collar bone) resulting in compression of the nerves and blood vessels that supply the arm.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of TOS usually include pain in the neck and shoulder area and pain or pins and needles with or without numbness and weakness in the arm/hand.

Common causes

There are various factors that may lead to the development of TOS. It generally occurs in middle-aged women and almost always on one side of the body. Trauma to the neck or shoulders: i.e. whiplash or broken collar bone; congenital anomalies (cervical rib); poor posture (i.e. rounded or drooping shoulders) and heavy lifting.

Thoracic outlet syndrome may be associated with certain occupations that involve working in a prolonged static position such as driving, desk work or playing a musical instrument such as the violin. Activities such as heavy lifting, combing one’s hair or carrying heavy bags on the affected side can aggravate symptoms.

More serious pathologies which can present with thoracic outlet syndrome type symptoms must be ruled out before any form of treatment begins.

Osteopathy can play a significant role in the assessment, diagnosis and management of TOS. As part of the management plan the aim is to relieve the compression of the nerves and blood vessels within the thoracic outlet thus relieving and minimising pain.

Treatment may begin with soft tissue work, articulation and neck stretching exercises. Abdominal breathing, posture correction and exercises may be prescribed for the patients, as part of their overall management plan. Laser can also prove effective.


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