Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that affect the thoracic outlet, a region of the body located between the shoulder and the neck. When the thoracic outlet is compressed or injured, thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) occurs, leading to pain and discomfort.

At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our thoracic surgeons are experts at diagnosing and treating the various conditions that make up TOS and providing patients with the utmost care and comfort. To learn more about the treatment options and procedures offered by our thoracic surgeons, please contact us today at 888.336.0998.

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when pressure is placed on blood vessels and nerves in the thoracic outlet. Depending on which specific portion of the thoracic outlet is compressed, the condition can take one of two forms, neurogenic or vascular. The compression of the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves located in the thoracic outlet, results in neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. If, however, an artery or vein is compressed instead, vascular thoracic outlet syndrome occurs.

Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome

Neurogenic thoracic syndrome is the most common form of TOS, affecting nearly 95% of patients with TOS. In addition, the female-to-male ratio of neurogenic TOS is 3:1, and is common in individuals in between the ages of 20 and 60.

Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome

Though much less common than the neurogenic form of TOS, vascular TOS can be much more dangerous. Vascular TOS occurs when either the vein or artery beneath the collar bone is compressed, causing pain in the neck, shoulder, and arms. Usually, this specific form of TOS is caused by an extra rib, which is reshaped and removed during surgery.

Causes of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

All forms of thoracic outlet syndrome are caused by the compression of the thoracic outlet. But what causes compression in the first place? Often, pressure is formed after a traumatic injury to the shoulder, such as a car accident. Other times, TOS can occur because of poor posture or repetitive movements of the arms, particularly in athletes like volleyball players, swimmers, or pitchers. Thoracic outlet syndrome can even be caused by being overweight! Patients who are obese place more pressure on their joints, increasing the risk of developing TOS.

Though there is no way to fully prevent thoracic outlet surgery from forming, there are simple ways to reduce the risk of developing the condition. Stretching your arms, shoulders, and neck can relieve pressure on the thoracic outlet, as can exercising your shoulder blades. Even simple things like standing up straight can lessen the risk of TOS and improve your health!

Schedule a Consultation with a Thoracic Expert Today

Thoracic outlet syndrome can be a painful and scary condition. If you suffer from any of the forms of TOS, it’s important that you contact a thoracic specialist as soon as possible. At the Thoracic Outlet Surgery Center of Excellence, our expert thoracic surgeons can treat TOS and prevent the condition from becoming worse. If you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons, please contact us today by calling 888.336.0998.

Next, read How to Treat Neck Pain.