The thoracic outlet is the area of the lower neck and upper chest. This area has a variety of nerves, blood vessels, muscles and bones that run through a fairly small area. When the nerves and blood vessels of this area are compressed, irritated or injured they can cause a range of symptoms known as the thoracic outlet syndrome.
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Compression, injury, or irritation of nerves and blood vessels can be caused by:
Factors that may increase your chance of developing thoracic outlet syndrome include:
Thoracic outlet syndrome may cause the following:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. During an elevated arm stress test, your doctor will ask you to hold your arms and head in positions that may cause the thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms to reappear. The results of these tests will help determine whether you have thoracic outlet syndrome and rule out other possible related conditions. Other tests may include:
Images of internal body structures may be taken with:
Treatment varies depending on a patient's specific symptoms. In most cases, thoracic outlet syndrome is managed with pain medication and physical therapy.
Medication - Your doctor may recommend the following:
A physical therapist will design some some exercises for you. The exercises will help to relieve symptoms by relaxing nearby muscles, improving posture and reducing pressure on nerves and blood vessels.
As part of your treatment, you may need to make lifestyle changes. Some of these may include:
The following procedure is offered for the treatment of a thoracic outlet syndrome depending if other treatments fail:
There are no current guidelines to prevent thoracic outlet syndrome.
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