Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) become compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.
Common causes of thoracic outlet syndrome include physical trauma from a car accident, repetitive injuries from job- or sports-related activities, certain anatomical defects (such as having an extra rib), and pregnancy. Sometimes doctors can't determine the cause of thoracic outlet syndrome.
Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves physical therapy and pain relief measures. Most people improve with these approaches. In some cases, however, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Treatment of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Overuse of the upper extremities can cause symptoms including pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of strength in the arms, hands and shoulders. This condition is known as thoracic outlet syndrome, and is caused by pinching of the nerves or bloods vessels at the top of the arms. This can affect one or both of your arms.
You may notice these symptoms when working overhead, with the arms outstretched, or when performing repetitive motions with the hands and arms. If your job requires this type of work, and you think you have thoracic outlet syndrome, you should report this to your employer before seeking medical treatment.
Testing can be performed to determine whether or not you have thoracic outlet syndrome. If that testing is positive, you will be started on a physical therapy program. If your symptoms are relieved with therapy, no surgery will be recommended.
If the physical therapy fails to help you, surgery will then be considered. Since the condition is caused by blood flow to the arm being shut off, surgery is done to re-open that flow. This is done by removing the first rib from the side that is affected by thoracic outlet syndrome. If both arms are affected, you will requires two surgeries.