Thoracic outlet syndrome is a disorder that occurs when blood vessels and nerves in the thoracic outlet become compressed, causing pain and numbness in the shoulders and fingers. Though there are a myriad of ways the disorder can occur, some of the most common causes include physical trauma and repetitive injuries. Using a combination of physical therapy and pain medication, thoracic outlet syndrome is highly treatable with most patients, though in some extreme cases treatment could necessitate surgery.
At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our thoracic specialists are experts in dealing with all the disorders that can occur in the thoracic outlet, including hyperhidrosis. If you are in need of our thoracic experts, please contact us at 888.557.5287 today.Contact Us Now!
Symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
There are three different types of thoracic outlet syndrome that can occur, and each is characterized by the compression of a certain set of nerves or veins.
The vast majority of thoracic outlet syndrome cases are neurogenic. This specific version of the disorder is caused by the compression of a network of nerves named the brachial plexus. These nerves control muscle movements in the shoulder, arms, and hands. Patients who suffer from neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome experience a numbness or tingling in the arms or fingers and pains in the shoulder and neck.
When the veins and arteries near the collarbone are compressed, vascular thoracic outlet syndrome typically occurs. When veins are compressed, venous thoracic outlet syndrome occurs, while arterial thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the arteries are compressed. As with the case with neurogenic version of the disorder, patients who suffer from venous or arterial thoracic outlet syndrome experience numbness in the extremities, particularly within the fingers and hands.
Additional symptoms of this disorder include blot clots in the veins or arteries in the thoracic outlet, weakness of the arm or hand, and discoloration of lack of color in the hand.
Nonspecific-type thoracic outlet syndrome:
The third form of thoracic outlet syndrome is strange in that not all doctors agree that it exists. Typically, patients who experience this specific form of the syndrome have chronic pain within the thoracic outlet. However, the cause of the pain can’t be determined. Due to the challenged nature of this disorder, it is typically called disputed thoracic outlet syndrome.CLICK HERE TO REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT ONLINE
Treatment Options for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
In general, thoracic outlet syndrome is caused by the compression of nerves near the collar bone. Treatment remedies can vary depending on the extent of the compression and on which specific form of the disorder from which a patient suffers.
As with most conditions and disorders, the doctors at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence recommend trying conservative remedies before working their way up to surgery. An effective treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome is physical therapy. During physical therapy, a patient will perform exercises designed to strengthen the shoulders muscles and expand the thoracic outlet, relieving the compression of the nerve bundles. If performed correctly and continually, these exercises will eliminate the symptoms associated with the disorder completely.
Anti-inflammatory medications have also been proven to be effective treatments in patients suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome. In addition to reducing pain, these medications will encourage muscle relaxation and movement in patients. If a patient suffers from vascular thoracic outlet syndrome, a doctor may prescribe clot-dissolving medications to deal with the clots that form in this specific form of the disorder.
Finally, if a patient is unresponsive to physical therapy or medications, a surgeon can perform thoracic outlet decompression, a procedure which alleviates the pressure felt in the thoracic outlet. As with all surgeries, it’s important for a patient to understand and accept the risks and complications associated with the surgery. After thoracic outlet decompression has been performed, most patients report a great reduction, if not complete elimination, in the severity of their symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are some of the causes of thoracic outlet syndrome?
A: Thoracic outlet syndrome can be caused by anatomical defects, trauma to the shoulder, repetitive activity, and even poor posture.
Q: What can I do to prevent the disorder?
A: Even though some forms of thoracic outlet syndrome can be congenital, there are some easy steps anyone can take to reduce their risk of the disorder. Daily exercise and stretches will help keep shoulders strong, thereby reducing the change of a nerve compression forming. In addition, losing weight will help prevent the symptoms associated with the disease. Finally, not carrying heavy bags over the shoulder can help stop thoracic outlet syndrome from occurring.
Schedule a Consultation with a Thoracic Specialist Today
If you suffer from thoracic outlet syndrome, the experts at the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence are here to help. With years of experience and state-of-the-art technology at their disposal, our surgeons are the premiere thoracic specialists in the country. To schedule a consultation with our Beverly Hills-based surgeons, please contact 888.557.5287 today.