Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that occurs when your brachial plexus nerve gets compressed by the interior structures of the neck or shoulder…. But what does all that mean?
Let’s break it down.
The Brachial Plexus is a large nerve network that starts around your lower neck (C5-T1). It runs through the side of your neck down under your collar bone and into your arm.
If something along this path is tight, swollen or not sitting how it should (posture) this can interrupt your nerve path and can cause uncomfortable sensations in your shoulder, arm or hand.
It’s like stepping on a hose and if there is no water coming out of the hose, first step you check if the tap is on. If the taps definitely on better check to see what interrupting the line. There can be a little compression or a lot of compression.
The Usual Suspects
So, what can “compress” this plexus.
Boney stuff – A rare version is where a small part of the bone in and around your spine has grown a little further or more than it should. This causes the little gap the nerve is meant to run through to be smaller.
Fluid – When you get an injury your body responds by sending a whole bunch of little cells and inflammatory markers. Unfortunately, this causes inflammation and therefore swelling. Think of it like a bruise, a fat lip or swollen knee but on a much smaller scale and inside your neck or shoulder.
Muscles – When a muscle is overly tight or sitting in shortened position due to postural issues, it can also cause compression of your nerve. These muscles can be in your neck, shoulder, arm or all of the above.
So, what can we DO about it?
Prescription exercise and stretches – Strengthening muscles that are weak and stretching muscles that are tight can go a long way to adjusting our overall posture. By getting our shoulder and neck position back to where we want it to be, we can open up these nerve channels and give it more space to do what it needs to do.
Hands on treatment – Myotherapy and Osteopathy can help identify and treat the areas of dysfunction. Using multiple manual therapy techniques, we can reduce muscle tension and inflammation which will decrease your nerve pressure.