What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or TOS?
TOS is a mechanical breakdown of the small passages where nerves and blood vessels of the arm travel: deep in the side of the neck, underneath the clavicle bone, and down below the shoulder. (To read more about the symptoms of TOS, go to part one of this article.)
In each case, the bundle of nerves, veins, and/or arteries which travel into the arm are mechanically compressed, sometimes in more than one place. This combination of compression points often explains why TOS can have a variety of symptoms that can appear very severe in some cases, and mild in others.
Let’s see how Upper Cervical Chiropractic care can help the body take pressure off these important passages, naturally.
Upper Cervical Care helps bring balance back to the joints of the spine, especially in the neck.
It’s important to remember that the symptoms of TOS often occur not just from neck muscles, or from structures in the shoulder, but also from breakdown in the joint alignment of the lower neck. TOS symptoms are often found in chiropractic patients who have visible signs of mechanical stress in their neck on an x-ray, like:
- loss of normal neck curve,
- forward head posture,
- joint degeneration at the cervical facet joints,
- and disc disease.
This stress alone can cause much of the neurological symptoms of TOS, even without mechanical stress near the shoulder, so it must be dealt together with the mechanical breakdown in the shoulder.
This mechanical breakdown often occurs after stress has already built-up in the neck from a head-to-neck misalignment. By improving head-to-neck alignment, the Upper Cervical Chiropractor can help the neck achieve a more optimal balance, taking stress off the joints of the spine and the delicate nerve tissue that travels between those joints.
Upper cervical chiropractic helps bring balance back to the deep muscles of the neck, in muscles called the scalenes.
The scalenes are large muscles deep in the side of your neck, which can cause a lot of issues when they are overworked on one side of the body. The scalenes have three different parts, and two sections of the scalenes actually connect the top two to three ribs of the rib cage to the neck. It is believed that a stressed scalene muscle group is often a culprit for causing TOS.
Why is the scalene muscle group stressed on one side, and not on the other? Upper Cervical Chiropractors have observed that when the neck is not properly aligned with the head, the large muscles of the neck and shoulder, like the scalenes, the trapezius muscles, and the sternocleidomastoid muscles, all have to work harder to keep the eyes level with the horizon. Just gently feeling these muscle groups with your fingers will often reveal how they are tighter and more sensitive on one side of the neck than the other.
TOS symptoms can be found in Upper Cervical Chiropractic patients with tight, hard scalenes on one side of the neck. After a series of visits with an Upper Cervical Chiropractor, many patients find that their stressed neck muscles have relaxed, including those deep side muscles of the neck, the scalenes. If the scalenes are contributing to the TOS symptoms, then it makes sense why those TOS-like symptoms begin to resolve when the head and neck are in better alignment.
Proper chiropractic care of the upper cervical spine will influence muscle balance and position of the shoulders.
Beyond stressed neck joints, or tight scalenes, patients with an Upper Cervical Subluxation often experience shoulder and shoulder-related problems, including TOS. And the reason is quite simple. Many of the muscles that stabilize the shoulder-girdle (a huge and powerful joint) connect to the lower neck and upper back. Proper head-to-neck alignment is critical to keeping shoulders in proper alignment, and stress-free.
In fact, many Upper Cervical Chiropractors will use shoulder height and a visible twist in the shoulder-girdle as a screening procedure to see if a patient is suffering from an upper cervical misalignment. Many upper cervical chiropractors will see gradual, if not immediate, change in shoulder height and shoulder posture after the re-aligning the upper neck. Because Upper Cervical Chiropractic brings new balance to the structures of the shoulder, it can help remove the longstanding stress to the shoulder structures that are causing the compression of nerves and blood vessels.
Can Upper Cervical Chiropractic help you with your TOS?
Upper Cervical Chiropractic is not a treatment for TOS symptoms, but our chiropractic office in Auburn Hills, MI can help the underlying body imbalance that may be causing the joints, muscles, and shoulder structures to be stressed. Regardless of how a TOS patients ends up finding relief, the stress to the joints of the neck, neck muscles, and shoulder-girdle coming from the Upper Cervical Subluxation should be addressed.
Please call our office for to be screened for an upper cervical misalignment. (248) 598-4002.