Thoracic outlet syndrome is the more common name that has been given to what is actually a group of disorders that occur as a result of blood vessels or nerves that are located between your collarbone and your first rib being compressed or pinched. This can cause pain to radiate down the arm and up into the shoulder and neck and numbness can also follow the pain.
Generally speaking, there are three different classification of thoracic outlet syndrome:
Neurological thoracic outlet syndrome can be characterized by the compressing and pinching of the brachial plexus, which is a network of tightly bound nerves that branch out from the spine and control the movement and sensations of the arm and shoulder.
Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome brings about symptoms that occur when one or more veins or arteries that run under the collarbone become compressed, thus reducing blood flow and leading to weakness and other issues.
Nonspecific-type thoracic outlet syndrome is the name given to symptoms that seem to be caused by something other than nerve or vein issues but cannot be easily identified.
Symptoms All three types of thoracic outlet syndrome result in pain, numbness, weakness, and lack of mobility in the shoulder region. Mild cases can feel like stiff muscles or a slight strain. More severe cases can cause weakness and pain. When the condition gets really out of hand, numbness, intense pain, and lack of mobility often are the result. Treatment In most cases, treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome can follow a conservative approach in terms of treatment. A non-invasive form of treatment can be effective, especially when diagnosis comes early and treatment can come before extensive or permanent damage is done. Treatment may include:
Physical therapy. For diagnosed cases of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, physical therapy often is the first and most effective method of treatment prescribed. In the therapy sessions, patients are taught exercises that they can do at home on their own that strengthen and improve shoulder muscles to help open up the nerves and relieve the pressure and restore proper nerve communication. Dr. Hamilton can put you on the right track with appropriate stretches and exercises.
Medications. In some cases, the addition of an anti-inflammatory medication or a muscle relaxant can help. These pills can ease pain, lower inflammation, and encourage muscle relaxation, all of which will help speed recovery and help with the healing and rehabilitation process. A combination of applied heat and cold can also help healing.
Clot-dissolving medications. For some cases of vein disorders, it might be necessary to bring in blood thinning medications to help relieve the pressure and to help restore the normal blood flow through the affected area. This will help improve muscle strength, blood flow, and mobility.
Surgery In some extreme cases where extensive damage has been done or where thoracic outlet syndrome was left untreated for too long, it might be necessary to look at surgery if other treatment hasn't been effective, or if the pain and other symptoms are too severe. Depending on the type of thoracic outlet syndrome you are suffering from, a surgeon trained in nerve and muscle related surgery or a surgeon trained in blood vessel surgery will perform the procedure. Surgery should be used as a last resort option as it does has risks of complications and damage to muscles and nerves. To find out if you are suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome and to see what treatment is best for you, then talk to Dr. Hamilton D.C. today!