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Acupuncture for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or “TOS”

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can happen when blood vessels or nerves become compressed in the space between your collarbone and first rib. The result of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can be pain in the shoulders as well as numbness in the fingers. 

Causes of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

There are numerous causes of thoracic outlet syndrome, here are some of the main ones, although sometimes doctors can’t determine the exact cause of the syndrome. 

  • Physical trauma (eg. from a car accident)
  • Repetitive injuries (eg. from sports or a labour-intensive job)
  • Anatomical defects (eg. having an extra rib)
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor Posture
  • Pressure on the joints (eg. those who are obese pose a particular vulnerability to this syndrome)

Types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

There are a number of types of thoracic outlet syndrome, including:

  • Neurogenic (neurological) thoracic outlet syndrome: This type of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome occurs when there is compression in the brachial plexus (a network of nerves that attaches from the spinal cord and controls movements and contributes to sensation in your shoulder, arm and hand.) This is the most popular form of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and can be treated with physical therapy. 
  • Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome: This type of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome happens when veins or arteries under the collarbone are compressed.
  • Nonspecific-type thoracic outlet syndrome: This type of syndrome is also called disputed Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There’s speculation as to whether it exists because the cause of the pain cannot be determined. Those with this type of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome experience chronic pain in the area of the thoracic outlet that will worsen with activity and movement.


Symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

There are many different symptoms one can experience with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Some of these include:

  • Muscle waste in the base of your thumb 
  • Numbness and tingling in arm or fingers
  • Pain or aches in the neck, shoulder and hand
  • A weakened grip
  • Discoloration of your hand (bluish)
  • Arm pain and swelling
  • Blood clot in veins or arteries in upper body
  • Lack of color (pallor) in fingers or entire hand
  • Arm fatigue with activity
  • Throbbing lump near your collarbone


Treatment of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

If you experience a combination of any of the above symptoms, visit your doctor for an evaluation of your condition. If Thoracic Outlet Syndrome goes untreated, it can result in neurological damage so it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for this kind of syndrome usually involves physical therapy and pain relief therapy. This can come in the form of traditional physical therapy, medication, massage, or acupuncture therapy. Your doctor may recommend relieving any weight you are carrying on a daily basis such as heavy bags and backpacks, and they may also recommend losing body weight. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Acupuncture has proven to provide relief to those suffering from the pain of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Visit an acupuncture clinic in San Diego or in your local area for a practitioner’s evaluation and pain relief treatment. 


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