Thoracic outlet syndrome is caused by a compression or nerves and blood vessels in tight spaces in the lower part of the neck, under the collarbone, or in the armpit. When the nerves are compressed, the main symptoms are pain and tingling in the hand and fingers. When the arteries or veins are compressed, there could be pain, swelling, paleness or bluish coloration of the arm. Scalene and/or a pectoralis minor muscles that are too tight or inflammed are the usual culprits. A cervical rib or a fracture of the collar bone could also be the cause.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is most frequent among throwing athletes where there is vigorous repetitive overhead use of the arm. This can lead to a reduction of the shoulder girdle stability as well as hypertrophy of scalene and pectoralis minor muscles. We most often hear about it in major league baseball pitchers. Players like Clayton Richard or the San Diego Padres, Matt Harvey of the Cincinnati Reds, and Jaime Garcia of the St-Louis Cardinals were all affected by thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent surgery for it.
While for high-level athletes surgery is often the go-to treatment, there are less invasive approaches that can help with thoracic outlet syndrome. Acupuncture is one of these less invasive options. A less invasive intervention means less risks and a shorter recovery time.
Excessive tension in the scalene and pectoralis minor muscles can be released with an acupuncture needle, thus eliminating or reducing the pain and tingling sensation. The combination of the treatment of trigger points with acupuncture, tuina massage and some exercises can be a good treatment option for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Jaime Chavez, a wonderful acupuncturist from the United States, made a short video on the treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome. It can help you understand how acupuncture can treat this condition.
Acupuncture has been gaining popularity among professional athletes over the last several years. And for a good reason: it is effective and has few risks and side effects. Contact us if you want to book an appointment or learn more about what acupuncture can do for you.