October 30, 2009

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a collective term for disorders that result from compression of the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet. The thoracic outlet refers to the area between the clavicle (collar bone) and the first rib. These disorders cause pain in the neck and shoulders and may also result in a numb sensation in the fingers. The causes of thoracic outlet syndrome could range from physical trauma or injuries that may have occurred repeatedly in the area. Injuries that may have occurred in the past can also result in this syndrome. In certain cases, the cause of these disorders cannot be ascertained. The treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome involves the administration of pain medication and physiotherapy. This brings positive results in most cases. In severe cases, surgery may be required to take care of the problem.

There are three classifications of thoracic outlet syndrome. Neurological thoracic outlet syndrome refers to compression of the complex of nerves known as brachial plexus. These nerves extend from the spine and are responsible for movements of the muscles. They also control sensations that are felt in the hand and shoulder. This is the most common type of thoracic outlet syndrome. Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome results due to compression of the veins and arteries under the collar bone. There is also a category called non-specific type or disputed thoracic outlet syndrome in which individuals experience pain in the thoracic outlet area, however the reasons for the same are unknown. The symptoms of neurological thoracic outlet syndrome include pain in the neck, shoulder and arm, tingling sensation in the fingers, numbness of the fingers and weakness in gripping objects. The symptoms of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome include appearance of a bluish discoloration on the hand, swelling and pain in the arm, blood clotting in the area, swelling around the clavicle and appearance of small black marks on the fingers. Thoracic outlet syndrome may be caused by congenital defects, improper posture, trauma or injury, repetitive movements, strain on the joints and pregnancy.

The treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome involves physical therapy in which muscle strengthening exercises are taught, relaxation which helps to relax the strained muscles and regulate proper posture and medications for relaxing the muscles and for treating inflammation. The exercises must also be practiced at home regularly so that the muscles of the thoracic outlet become strong. It is also important to refrain from putting excessive stress on the neck and shoulder muscles. One must also focus on maintaining a proper posture at all time. Taking regular breaks between activities will also give the muscles time to rest.