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5 Benefits of Using Chiropractic Care for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome 

 May 8, 2024

By  Dr. Polly Hediger

thoracic outlet syndrome chiropractic careThoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a painful and often debilitating condition that affects the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet, the space between the collarbone and first rib. Symptoms of TOS can include numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand, significantly impacting daily life. While various treatment options exist, chiropractic care has emerged as a highly effective, non-invasive approach to managing and alleviating the symptoms of TOS. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of chiropractic care for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and how it can help you find relief and restore optimal function.

The Mechanics of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome:

To fully comprehend how chiropractic care can aid individuals suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), it’s crucial to delve into the intricate mechanisms underlying this condition. The thoracic outlet is a narrow anatomical space located between the collarbone (clavicle) and the first rib. This space contains vital structures, including the brachial plexus (a network of nerves that control sensation and movement in the arm and hand), subclavian artery, and subclavian vein. TOS develops when these structures become compressed, leading to a constellation of symptoms.

Several factors can contribute to the development of TOS, each causing compression through different mechanisms:

  1. Poor posture: Prolonged periods of slouching or hunching can cause the shoulders to roll forward, narrowing the thoracic outlet and placing excessive pressure on the nerves and blood vessels.
  2. Muscle imbalances: Tightness or spasms in the neck and shoulder muscles, particularly the scalene and pectoralis minor muscles, can compress the thoracic outlet structures.
  3. Injury or trauma: Whiplash injuries, shoulder dislocations, or fractures in the collarbone or first rib can cause physical changes that narrow the thoracic outlet space.
  4. Anatomical variations: Some individuals may have congenital abnormalities, such as an extra rib (cervical rib) or atypical muscle development, which can predispose them to TOS.
  5. Repetitive strain: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive overhead arm movements or prolonged shoulder elevation can lead to muscle strain and compression of the thoracic outlet structures.

When the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet are compressed, it can lead to a range of symptoms depending on the specific structure affected:

  • Neurogenic TOS: Compression of the brachial plexus can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. Symptoms may worsen with certain arm positions or activities.
  • Venous TOS: Compression of the subclavian vein can lead to swelling, discoloration, and a feeling of heaviness in the affected arm. In severe cases, blood clots may form, requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Arterial TOS: Although rare, compression of the subclavian artery can cause coldness, pallor, and weakness in the affected arm. Severe cases may lead to arterial aneurysms or blood clots.

Understanding these underlying mechanisms is essential for chiropractors to develop targeted treatment plans that address the specific factors contributing to an individual’s TOS. By identifying and correcting postural imbalances, muscle tension, and joint restrictions, chiropractors can help alleviate compression in the thoracic outlet, leading to reduced symptoms and improved function. In the following section, we’ll explore how chiropractic care takes a holistic approach to provide relief for individuals with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Using Chiropractic Care for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Chiropractic care offers a comprehensive, holistic approach to alleviating the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) by focusing on the health and function of the spine and musculoskeletal system. Chiropractors recognize that the human body is a complex, interconnected system, and that dysfunction in one area can have far-reaching effects on overall health and well-being. By addressing the underlying biomechanical issues that contribute to TOS, chiropractic care aims to provide lasting relief and improve quality of life.

At the core of chiropractic care is the identification and correction of spinal misalignments, known as subluxations. These misalignments can cause a cascade of problems, including muscle tension, joint dysfunction, and nerve irritation. In the case of TOS, subluxations in the cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper back) regions can contribute to compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet. Chiropractors use precise, targeted adjustments to restore proper alignment, alleviating pressure on these vital structures and promoting optimal nerve function and blood flow.

In addition to spinal adjustments, chiropractors employ a range of techniques to address the various factors contributing to TOS:

  1. Soft tissue therapy: Techniques such as massage, trigger point therapy, and instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) help to release muscle tension, improve flexibility, and promote healing in the neck, shoulder, and chest muscles that can compress the thoracic outlet.
  2. Stretching and strengthening exercises: Chiropractors teach patients specific exercises to stretch tight muscles, strengthen weakened ones, and improve overall posture. These exercises help to create space in the thoracic outlet and reduce the risk of future compression.
  3. Ergonomic and postural guidance: Chiropractors provide advice on how to optimize workspaces, modify daily activities, and maintain good posture to minimize stress on the thoracic outlet. This may include recommendations for ergonomic chairs, desk setups, and proper lifting techniques.
  4. Lifestyle counseling: Recognizing that factors such as stress, diet, and sleep can impact musculoskeletal health, chiropractors offer guidance on lifestyle modifications that can support the healing process and prevent future exacerbations of TOS symptoms.

One of the key advantages of chiropractic care for TOS is its non-invasive nature. Unlike surgical interventions, which carry risks and require significant recovery time, chiropractic adjustments and therapies are gentle and safe. Patients can often experience relief from symptoms without the need for medication or surgery, making chiropractic care an attractive option for those seeking a more natural approach to healing.

Furthermore, chiropractic care is highly individualized. Each patient’s TOS presentation is unique, and chiropractors take the time to thoroughly assess each case, identifying the specific factors contributing to the condition. This allows for the development of targeted treatment plans that address the patient’s individual needs, ensuring optimal results.

By addressing misalignments, relieving muscle tension, improving posture, and promoting overall wellness, chiropractic care can help individuals with TOS find lasting relief and regain their quality of life. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at the specific benefits of chiropractic care for those suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

5 Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

  1. Spinal Realignment: Chiropractic adjustments are designed to correct spinal misalignments that can contribute to TOS symptoms. By restoring proper alignment, pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet is reduced, leading to decreased pain and improved function.
  2. Postural Improvement: Poor posture is a common factor in the development and exacerbation of TOS. Chiropractors work with patients to identify and correct postural imbalances through targeted adjustments, exercises, and ergonomic recommendations. By improving posture, pressure on the thoracic outlet is minimized, reducing symptoms and preventing future flare-ups.
  3. Muscle Rehabilitation: Muscle tension and imbalances can worsen TOS symptoms. Chiropractors employ techniques such as soft tissue therapy and therapeutic exercises to rehabilitate affected muscles, improving flexibility, strength, and overall function.
  4. Nerve Mobilization: Chiropractic care includes techniques to mobilize and release compressed nerves in the thoracic outlet. This helps improve nerve function, reducing pain, numbness, and tingling sensations associated with TOS.
  5. Lifestyle Optimization: In addition to hands-on treatments, chiropractors provide guidance on lifestyle modifications to support TOS management. This may include ergonomic adjustments, stress reduction techniques, and exercises to promote overall health and well-being.

Suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? Get Help Today!

If you’re struggling with the pain and limitations of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, don’t wait any longer to find relief. Our skilled chiropractic team is here to help you overcome TOS symptoms and reclaim your quality of life. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and embark on your journey towards a pain-free, active lifestyle. With personalized care and a holistic approach, we’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs and goals. Take the first step towards unlocking relief—call us now to book your appointment today!

This article is copyrighted by Blogging Chiropractors for its Doctor of Chiropractic members and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without the prior written permission of Blogging Chiropractors.

Dr. Polly Hediger


Dr. Polly Hediger grew up in a small town in southern Illinois, called Highland. After graduating in the top 10 of her high school class, she attended Southwestern Illinois College for general studies. In 1998, Dr. Hediger entered the accelerated science program at Logan College of Chiropractic in Missouri. Through her coursework there she completed her Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) and graduated with a Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.).

Dr. Polly Hediger

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