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  • Writer's pictureArianne Gosselin

Osteopathy for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a shoulder and neck disorder that can lead to difficulty completing activities of daily living. It occurs when either the artery or nerves are compressed as they exit the thoracic outlet. The thoracic outlet (illustrated above) is the area where delicate nerves and vessels must pass between two muscles, over the first rib, and below the collar bone. As they pass through, they are highly susceptible to compression, and if they do end up getting compressed, pain and loss of function are the results.

Symptoms will differ depending on which structure is compressed. In the “vascular” form of TOS, it is either the vein or the artery that is compressed. In this case, we would see swelling in the arm and maybe even a bluish tone to the skin referred to as cyanosis (Laulan et al, 2010). There would be limited blood supply from the shoulder to the fingertips which would affect the overall function of the arm.

On the other hand, compression of the nerve is a much more likely scenario, seen in approximately 95% of all TOS cases. The three most common symptoms with nerve compression are pain at rest, numbness, and decreased strength (Laulan et al, 2010)

If you have TOS, osteopathy is your ticket back to health. By treating the muscles and gently realigning the spine and ribs, the vessels and nerves will have space to do their job. This leads to you being pain-free and back to functioning as you used to, which is how it should be!


Laulan, J., Fouquet, B., Rodaix, C., Jauffret, P., Roquelaure, Y., & Descatha, A. (2010). Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Definition, Aetiological Factors, Diagnosis, Management and Occupational Impact. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 21(3), 366–373. doi: 10.1007/s10926-010-9278-9

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