Thoracic outlet syndrome can hit anyone. It can make it impossible to play with your children, difficult to get through your work day, and downright miserable to play the games and sports that you love.
If you’re here, you’re probably already quite frustrated with what your doctors and therapists have been telling you about your problem. The answers you get don’t seem to make much sense. You’ve suffered for months or years, and even with the thoracic outlet diagnosis, the surgical treatment seems unnecessarily invasive and risky.
Even though you would do anything for relief from the pain, numbness, and cold, something about the whole situation probably feels wrong. After so much struggle, you’re being told that cutting a muscle or removing a bone is the best solution, but your internal alarm bells are ringing.
Back in 2003, I started having major problems with my shoulder, hands, and wrists.
At the peak of my hand and wrist problems, I couldn't type on a computer for more than a few seconds without paying a heavy price of pain, numbness, and coldness (and the panic that would set in).
The doctors I saw insisted that what I had did not fit the description of carpal tunnel syndrome. The wrong fingers were affected, my doctor reassured me. Because it wasn't carpal tunnel, it was clearly just an overuse injury.
With rest, my doctor said, the tendons of my forearms and hands would heal on their own.
But those problems didn’t heal on their own.
I suffered with that numbness, tingling, and night-time throbbing for years. I set out to solve the problem for myself, since nobody seemed to be able to help me.
Massage - helped for a couple hours at a time
Acupuncture - helped for a couple hours at at time
Chiropractic - usually only helped for a few minutes, if at all
Vitamin B - helped reduce symptoms for a few months, and then stopped having any effect
Since 2007, I’ve been working with hundreds of clients with shoulder, hip, back, and knee issues and the muscular problems that underlie them.
I’ve helped countless people overcome shoulder pain, neck pain, and hand pain that was blamed on bone impingement, rotator cuff tears, and labral tears.
For most people, within a few months’ time they could get back to enjoying their lives.
I’m not a crazy voodoo practitioner... and I don’t have magical powers.
I suffered a lot with issues all over my body starting in my teens, so out of necessity I’ve learned a lot about how to train the human body to work better and feel good.
In the medical world, it’s a recognized fact that how you use your body can impact the severity of your symptoms. Poor posture and specific repetitive motions can make pain, numbness, and lack of blood flow much worse.
There’s a spot near the front of your shoulder joint called the brachial plexus where a bunch of nerves and blood vessels pass through on their way to feeding your hands.
If you put your body in positions that make this area narrower, you can make your symptoms rapidly worse.
You’ve probably already learned this the hard way.
When you slouch, your thoracic spine is in a curved position. That affects the position of the shoulder blade, narrowing the space for your nerves and blood vessels.
The clavicle, the scalenes, the pec minor, and the first rib are structures that are often blamed for the symptoms you experience.
But what if you activated opposing muscles to open up the brachial plexus?
That's what medical approaches try to do...
There are two major treatments for thoracic outlet syndrome - one that you’ve already tried and one that you probably don’t want to.
Physical therapy for thoracic outlet syndrome is the one that makes the most sense and is the least invasive. The stated goal is 100% a great idea: improve your posture and increase the space for the nerves and blood vessels.
But, as you’ve probably experienced, the way they go about it doesn’t always work. There are many reasons why traditional physical therapy often doesn’t work. We'll get into those problems later.
And that’s what I’d like to help you avoid. It’s invasive, introduces trauma to your body that you’ll need to recover from, and often requires you to use pain medications for long periods of time as you heal from the surgery - if not indefinitely.
It's no wonder that recent studies on the long term success of thoracic outlet surgery show such disappointing results.
"A friend referred me to Upright Health because my left shoulder was in a constant spasm and the fingers of my left hand were going numb. MRIs had indicated I had cervical spine pathology, and three different doctors I consulted with expected that surgery would be the only solution and there was not much else I could do. Matt listened to the information the doctors had given me, understood my concerns, and presented me with a very different perspective from what I had already heard. What was most notable was that he had clearly already considered the other perspectives on my issues and had very well-reasoned notions about why the traditional perspectives may have arisen and how they may be misleading. In the first session with Matt, there was an obvious improvement in my hand and neck symptoms. After a month or two I was feeling very good and no longer suffered the distraction of pain and numbness during my busy workdays..."
My first bout of hand and wrist pain was in high school.
I was young, so it was pretty disconcerting. I'd get numbness, coldness, tingling, and aching in my hands and wrists, but it eventually passed when I went to college and started lifting weights and playing even more hockey than I had ever played in my life.
The second bout of hand and wrist pain came after I stopped playing hockey and stopped lifting weights.
I was told that I needed to stop sports. I needed to stop lifting weights.
I needed to just "rest." I took that advice, and waited for my shoulder to get better.
Within 9 months to a year, my hands and wrists were causing me major problems.
If there ever has been a time in human history where a person could completely rest their hands from any work at all, it was not 2003. I was in college with essays to type, friends to contact (often via computer), and internet searches to get lost in.
I tried doing things that didn't involve typing, but it was a struggle to do even the most basic things without feeling like my hands were being choked and frozen off my body.
Even sitting and playing cards with friends was a challenge; the numbness in my hands made fine movements like grabbing a playing card seem absurdly difficult. I wore gloves to keep my hands warm. I wore Chinese herbal patches all around my forearms to draw out the toxins in my body. I tried countless massages. I tried acupuncture. I saw chiropractors.
Everyone seemed to think that if I just rested enough, the problems would go away. With rest, I'd get my fingers back. With rest, the blood would come back to my skinny forearms. With rest, my elbows would no longer zing me with electric shocks whenever I put them down wrong on a hard surface. With rest, I'd be able to go to sleep without feeling throbbing and aching.
Rest helped only for as long as I rested. In the long term, it was doing absolutely nothing to improve my symptoms. This was extremely frustrating. And at the same time, it wasn't all that surprising because all the rest I had done for my shoulder still hadn't helped the constant feeling of instability in my shoulder.
First was seeing a doctor of Chinese medicine who specialized in specific Chinese massage techniques (Tui Na). He worked on muscles on my shoulders & on the shoulder blades and then focused a heat lamp on my arms and wrists for 5-10 minutes to improve blood flow. As soon as he massaged the muscles on my shoulder blades, I'd feel like my hands were mine again. I was surprised that he could restore that feeling of "wholeness" like that.
I was excited and heartened, and my mom kept taking me to see him.
Sadly, what I found over time was that the feeling didn't last. I'd feel wonderful - so relieved! - for only as long as I could keep myself away from the computer keyboard. The moment I touched the keyboard, all the sensations would come back again. I would feel the cold line of tension tugging from my elbow down into my hands, and then all the pain would be back as if I had simply hit a switch.
The second thing that helped was taking massive quantities of B Vitamins. I remember trawling the internet, looking for remedies for my problem, and I somehow came across someone suggesting that B vitamins would help with nerve pain. Again, this was 2003, and the internet was not yet full of this kind of information as it is today. But, with little to lose, I went out and bought some B vitamins and started off with my first dose.
I no longer remember which B vitamins I bought, but I do remember they were tiny little tablets, and they worked like magic...I could not believe how effective they were! I could feel the relief spread down into my hands. The cold cable of tension around the elbow and down into the hands would melt away, and I could function!
Not only did I have papers to write, but I also worked in a computer lab, so it was as if I were getting my life back!
I kept a supply of B vitamins with me at all times, and whenever I started to feel the cold ache creep back into my arms, I’d pop a pill to make everything okay again.
This strategy worked very well for a while. I can no longer remember how many of these pills exactly I was taking on a daily basis, but I know that there were plenty of days where I exceeded the recommended dose. I vaguely remember looking up what a toxic dosage might be. Having satisfied myself that the relief from pain was worth whatever risk might exist on the high end of the dosage scale, I kept on my regimen. The number of pills per day gradually increased. And increased. And increased.
And then one day the pills no longer worked.
I tried upping the dosage even more, but the effect was gone. The B vitamins just weren’t working anymore.
It was crushing to accept that the vitamins were no longer going to help me, but it motivated me to try to find a way to make my body work properly again.
Over time, I stumbled upon bits and pieces of the puzzle. Ultimately I found out that, as I suspected, muscles made all the difference in the world.
By working on my muscles in particular way, it was possible to make my problems better - or worse! By loosening up some muscles, symptoms in seemingly unrelated parts of the body could go away! Loosening up muscles on the front of my chest made instability in my shoulder feel noticeably better!
I could start seeing my veins on my forearms again - a clear visual sign that there was blood coming back into my hands!
By strengthening other muscles, I could stabilize and make my comfort last for hours, then days, then weeks!
Too much focus on massage work - while massage work can definitely be helpful, it is not going to solve your problem
Too much focus on stretching - while stretching can be an important component of establishing good shoulder position, it will not ensure perfect shoulder blade positioning
Too much focus on the wrong muscles - if you’ve spent hours stretching your scalenes and hours doing shoulder rolls, you’ve already experienced this frustration
Not using enough resistance - you can't improve your situation without building strength, and you can't build strength without resistance
Not paying attention to muscle balance - all the muscles around the back, neck, and shoulder can impact comfort levels and the function
For example, if you look at rehabilitation protocols...
Like this one: The Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: A Protocol of Treatment
You’ll notice that a lot of attention is placed on passive treatments like massage and ultrasound (which doesn’t do anything to actually improve your ability to use the right muscles). And in even if the ultrasound does something to “heal” the muscles it’s placed on, you still aren’t training your body to hold the right positions to avoid further irritation.
Massage can be helpful to relieve tension temporarily, but it doesn’t retrain muscles to do their jobs properly.
If you look at a rehabilitation protocol like this one: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Exercises...
You see a program that focuses on stretching the scalenes and the pectoral muscles, but then totally falls short in building strength to maintain better posture and a more open brachial plexus. The few exercises listed to build some strength qualify as remedial exercises that are really only a starting point for how you train your body.
These are common strategies for thoracic outlet, and they are destined to fail and frustrate.
See why common physical therapy exercises to "fix" poor upper back posture fail...AND what you can do to REALLY fix it.
"Three years ago, I started working at my first desk job as an engineer. I started to experience a lot of neck, shoulder and hip pain. At one point, I seriously considered quitting my job and doing a complete career change which did not involve sitting or computers. After nearly 10 months of trying everything, my friend recommended Upright Health, and after the first session, I felt a noticeable difference. After 4 months, the pain was 95% gone, and I have been able to continue working at my job with no problems."
"I’m kind of hunched over a lot from the course of my work. I’m a weekend warrior, and I ride my bike a lot. When I ride my bike, I’m hunched over a lot. I was having problems for a long time with my right shoulder. I couldn’t hold my arm up and forward without starting to get really bad spasms. I would have spasms that would double me over in pain. I couldn’t lift my arm by itself. I had C6 and C7 fused. I was told the surgery would make it all better, but it didn’t take care of my shoulder. It wasn’t until I came to Matt at Upright Health that I started to learn that a lot of this stuff is just retraining muscles to pull things back where they’re supposed to be. Within a few weeks, things started to change! You can waste lots of time getting injections and surgery, but you can avoid a lot of that just by working with Matt at Upright Health."
It really is possible to retrain your body to remove your pain and discomfort.
This may be hard to believe. You may have been told that it’s impossible to fix your problem.
Remember: it’s possible for you to make the problem worse by positioning your body poorly. Over time, as muscles have atrophied and allowed you to sink into worse and worse positions, you have gotten more and more sensitized and been put into more and more pain.
Rest doesn’t address the problem. Rest just lets your muscles get into worse positions.
General exercises don't fix anything. You have to do the right exercises.
If you can do things to gradually make your problems worse, then you can work to actively reverse that process.
The Shoulder Fix is based on my own personal experience dealing with symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome and helping others overcome issues related to shoulder dysfunction.
The Shoulder Fix gives you tools and understanding to help you help yourself.
Step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process of fixing your shoulders
A video library of all exercises to ensure you know how to do every exercise in the program
Detailed explanations of exercises so you understand why every exercise is in the program (and why you almost definitely DON'T need to be doing some exercises!)
Simple workouts that you can use RIGHT AWAY to start healing your shoulder - whether your problem is being too flexible or not flexible enough
Troubleshooting instructions to help you tweak your workout to match your specific problems
A special program devoted to people who have been told they have adhesive capsulitis (AKA 'Frozen Shoulder')
Progressions so you can keep your shoulders healthy and happy for life!
Nobody wants to wait to heal their shoulders. The online-only platform means two things:
- You get INSTANT access to the program as soon as you become a Shoulder Fixer.
- You have instant access to ALL updates to the program for life!
The PDF workbook is formatted to be printed. The Shoulder Fix online materials can be accessed through any desktop or mobile device.
DON'T start this program if you have a known blood clot related to your thoracic outlet. GET CLEARANCE from your doctor for exercise once your blood clot has been dealt with.
DON'T start this program if you aren't willing to invest time and attention. This is NOT a magic quick fix. You must be willing to consistently exercise to improve your body and your situation!
An hour with a therapist who may not know how to help you can easily cost you $80-150. That's PER session!
An hour with me would cost you $300 for the first session. That doesn't include the important follow-up sessions to help you continue to make progress over time.
Surgery could cost you THOUSANDS of dollars. If you have great insurance, it may cost less, but the results are FAR from guaranteed. Recent studies show the long term results are pretty terrible.
My goal is to help as many people as possible all over the world, so THE SHOULDER FIX is designed to be maximally effective and still cost you less than any of those other options!
I dealt with my own shoulder problems for years, so I know how frustrating it is to spend money and get no results. You lose time. You lose money.
This program is designed to help as many people as possible in a cost-effective way.
But I have to be fully honest and 100% transparent. If you’ve got something complex, this program may not work for you. If you've got a very detailed, odd kind of compensation happening, so you might need more individualized help.
We want you to get better, period. If you try the program and it isn't a good fit, just contact us, and we'll give you your money back. Take that money and find more individualized help!
It’s that simple.
(INSTANT ONLINE ACCESS - ONE TIME PAYMENT OF $99.95 - NO RECURRING SUBSCRIPTION)