Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the thoracic outlet (The space between the clavicle and the first rib) is compressed. Common symptoms associated with this syndrome are pain in the neck and shoulder and numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arm and or hand. These symptoms have a wide variety in presentation.
Many times thoracic outlet is caused by physical trauma to the area; however, symptoms may develop months or even years following the initial injury. Repetitive movements such as overhead work have also been implicated in developing thoracic outlet problems. Thoracic outlet can also develop due to anatomical defects, poor posture, and during pregnancy. If thoracic outlet is untreated it can cause permanent nerve damage.
Conservative management is suggested initially unless significant neurological or vascular deficits exist. If significant neurological or vascular deficits do exist, emergency surgery may be indicated to relieve pressure to prevent permanent damage. Conservative treatment would include muscle relaxer, stretching, ultrasound, soft tissue manipulation, active rehabilitation, chiropractic manipulation, and other physical medicine modalities.
Invasive treatment such as surgery can be risky and commonly involves removal of portion of the first rib to relieve pressure on brachial plexus.
If you are suffering from symptoms that sound consistent with the thoracic outlet symptoms described above you should consult your doctor. Conservative chiropractic care is an excellent initial treatment option to managing thoracic outlet symptoms.