What are these strange symptoms in my hands, arms and shoulders? It could be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
It is not uncommon for me to see patients in my office - Soft Touch Chiropractic in Porter Ranch, CA with the following symptoms:
Numbness in the hands
Loss of grip strength
Discoloration in the hands
These symptoms could be signs of thoracic outlet syndrome or TOS. TOS is a muscle issue where the blood flow to the shoulder, arm and hands is being obstructed by a muscle spasm.
We have many muscles in and around our neck which have a profound effect on the health of our limbs. When the neck muscles are spasmed they will contract and block the blood flow at the brachial artery that stems from the aorta in the heart and passes right above the collar bone.
To detect TOS, I check the pulse and ask the patient to rotate the head from side to side. If the pulse diminishes or disappears then we know that the problem is vascular and not neurological.
The aorta, which is the major artery, leaves the heart and from there the brachial artery branches out, goes slightly above the collar bone and all the way to the arm so the heart pulse at the wrist gives an indication of the strength of the blood flow to the arm. The brachial artery goes past the scalenus muscle. When the scalenus is spasmed it interferes with the blood flow. The tighter the spasm the greater the blockage of blood flow and that’s what creates all the symptoms listed above.
The following treatments for TOS are available in my office and in many other chiropractic offices:
Manual therapy: I use stretching and massage to increase the range of motion of the neck and shoulder.
Active electric therapy: Active means that the patient stretches or moves slightly while the electrodes are on the affected muscles. This is done for exponential benefits. Instead of relaxing only three muscles, we can relax twelve so long as movement is coupled with the electric stimulation.
Ultrasound therapy: This is like feeling the vibration from a very loud speaker. Ultrasound uses sound that we cannot hear but the vibration affects the soft tissues like tendons and ligaments. It is most effective at relaxing the muscles. It promotes better posture, so it relieves pressure off the upper back and neck. It also promotes better sleep.
Mindful meditation: Most muscle spasms are caused by stress so we ask patients to manage their stress with mindful meditation which is very helpful.
Chiropractic adjustments can also relieve the pressure off the nerves bringing relief to the neck.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed or anything similar, contact your chiropractor for an exam and evaluation. Watch the video below for a more detailed explanation.