Do you or someone you know have thoracic outlet syndrome? The good news is that many times massage and bodywork helps with thoracic outlet syndrome!
Thoracic outlet syndrome(also known as TOS) is compression of the neurovascular(nerves, blood vessel) structures as they exit the thoracic outlet which is basically where the 1st rib and the collar bone meet.
Because other structural conditions can mimic systems of TOS, identifying thoracic outlet syndrome typically involves a clinical diagnosis from a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist. The symptoms of TOS can involve pain in the neck, shoulder, arm and sometimes jaw. Also numbness and tingling in those areas. Sometimes there may also be weakness as well as the arm and/or hand feeling cold.
The Causes Of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
There are many reasons that someone can develop thoracic outlet syndrome:
- Posture- Slouching the shoulders or the head protruding forward can put pressure on the thoracic region causing structural changes. Postural issues can be from simple lack of awareness but also from muscles that lack tone due to lack of strength training as well as overly tight muscles and contracted fascia.
- Repetitive Movements/Strain- Anything that causes repetitive use of the arm, shoulder, like playing musical instruments. or sports or sitting at the computer for long periods of time. This can cause chronic contracted shoulder, arm, chest muscles and fascia. This chronic contracted area can put pressure on the thoracic outlet region.
- Trauma-Any kind of accident(like a car accident or sports accident) that causes trauma to the shoulder, neck, upper arm area.
- Pregnancy-The joints loosen during pregnancy and this can cause a weakening in the thoracic outlet region resulting in thoracic outlet syndrome.
- Anatomical abnormalities from birth-Sometimes people are born with an extra rib which compresses the thoracic outlet region.
Why Massage/Bodywork Is Good
For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Massage and bodywork is often helpful with the contracted shoulder, arm, chest muscles and and shortened fascia that can be common due to repetitive movements and strain. Massage helps relieve the contracted compressed areas which puts less pressure on the thoracic outlet thus lessening symptoms.
Massage therapy can also help with scar tissue that could have developed due to trauma and accidents that are affecting the thoracic area.
While anatomical abnormalities cannot directly be helped with massage therapy. Massage/bodywork can many times help with the structural effects of those abnormalities by helping give relief to tight muscles and fascia that may be contracted and shortened due to a structural imbalance of over compensation.
**It's important to note that while massage therapy and bodywork can help with thoracic outlet syndrome, typically it's very important to do other self care and physical therapy.**
For instance, postural issues have to be dealt with by practicing self care exercises like upper body strength training and upper body self stretching on a regular basis to help improve posture which can help relieve the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25452819 Case report: the effects of massage therapy on a woman with thoracic outlet syndrome. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2014 Dec 2;7(4):7-14. eCollection 2014 Dec.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24411148NTOS symptoms and mobility: a case study on
neurongenic thoracic outlet syndrome involving massage therapy. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2014 Jan;18(1):42-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.04.007. Epub 2013 Jun 21.