Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
Thoracic outlet syndrome describes multiple disorders that take place when blood vessels and nerves in the area between your collarbone and your uppermost rib become pinched or compressed.
This disorder leaves you with excruciating pain in your shoulders and neck and the loss of feeling in your fingers. Not all medical professionals are familiar with thoracic outlet syndrome. As a result, sufferers have the unfortunate experience of visiting multiple doctors and getting very little relief from their pain.
What causes Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
Thoracic outlet syndrome causes compression on a nerve or blood vessel underneath your collar bone. Reasons why this may happen can include:
- Anatomical Defects. These are congenital defects which could include things like having an extra rib or having a tight fibrous band between your spine and your rib.
- Bad Posture. If you stick your head out in a forward position, this can cause compression in the thoracic outlet area.
- Injury/Trauma. When you have a sports injury, a work injury, or an automobile accident, these can change the position of your collarbone, leading to nerve or blood vessel compression.
- Repetitive Activities. If you constantly do the same movements over and over again, you are going to wear down your body’s tissue. Things like typing on a computer, constantly lifting things over your head, swimming, or pitching a baseball can lead to nerve and blood vessel compression in the thoracic outlet area.
- Obesity. If you’re overweight, you put on pressure on your joints, which in turn can lead to nerve and blood vessel compression.
- Pregnancy. When you are pregnant, your joints loosen up. For many women, pregnancy is the first time that they experience thoracic outlet syndrome.
Thoracic outlet syndrome affects women more commonly than men. And it is most commonly seen in young adults who are between the ages of 20 and 40 years old.
What are the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?
The symptoms you experience are going to vary depending on the type of thoracic outlet syndrome you are experiencing. Some examples include:
- Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This is characterized by the compression of the brachial plexus. These are the nerves that leave your spinal cord and affect the movement and feeling that you have in your shoulders, your hands, and your arms. This type of thoracic outlet syndrome accounts for the majority of people’s symptoms.
- Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This happens when one or more of the veins or arteries underneath your collar bone are compressed.
- Nonspecific Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There is some disagreement in the medical community as to whether or not this type of thoracic outlet syndrome exists or if it is something that commonly affects people. If you have this type of thoracic outlet syndrome, you feel pain in your thoracic area, it gets worse when you move, but the reason for the pain cannot be determined.
Depending on which structures are compressed, thoracic outlet syndrome will manifest different symptoms. If nerves are compressed, then some of the symptoms you will experience include:
- Atrophy in the fleshy base of your thumb
- Numb or tingling sensations in your arms and fingers
- Pain or a dull ache in your neck, your hand, or shoulder
- A weak grip
If you have vascular thoracic outlet syndrome, the symptoms you will see may include:
- Your hands turning blue
- Pain in your armpit that might be linked to blood clots
- Blood clots in your arteries and veins throughout your upper body
- Loss of color in your fingers or your entire hand
- The affected arm may not have a pulse, or your pulse maybe very weak
- A lump close to your collarbone that is throbbing
- Tingling or numb sensation in your fingers
- Hands or arms that are cold
- Weakness in your neck and arms
Treating and Diagnosing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
One of the most frustrating things about dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome is that since not a lot of medical professionals are familiar with it, they treat you like you are inventing things. We are familiar with this infirmity. We know that the pain you are experiencing is real, and we are eager to work with you to help you manage this pain.
When you walk into our clinic, the first thing you’re going to notice is that we are eager to work with you and to listen to you. Before we do anything, we want to understand the unique pain that you feel. Armed with that information, we are able to work with you to create an individualized pain management program.
We know that the pain you feel is different from what our other clients with thoracic outlet syndrome have experienced. We will not insult you by giving you a one-size-fits-all pain management treatment. What we provide will be uniquely designed to help you.
We want to give you long-term and short-term pain management therapy. Regardless of how challenging it is, we refuse to give up on you. We look forward to helping you get back to living the quality of life you deserve by teaching you to successfully manage your thoracic outlet syndrome pain.