Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition in which the nerves or blood vessels that travel to the arm and hand are compressed between soft tissues near the side of the neck. Most people are able to manage their thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms through physical therapy. Specialized exercises can improve muscle balance and posture to lessen your symptoms. Generally, surgery should be the last resort when treating this syndrome.
The compression that produces thoracic outlet syndrome can result from a variety of conditions, including
- trauma, such as that which might occur in a car accident
- repetitive injury from job- or sports-related activities
- poor posture
- an extra first rib
Physical therapy and pain management are the two predominant methods of treatment. Exercise strengthens the muscles, increases the range of motion and promotes healthy posture. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can alleviate immediate pain. A target program of physical therapy often produces results that can eliminate the need for surgery.
The surgical option is reserved for those patients who remain severely debilitated after all other nonsurgical options have been exhausted. Surgery of this nature carries with it certain risks, including, but not limited to, failure to correct the problem, nerve damage, internal bleeding, a collapsed lung and lymphatic fluid leakage.
The earlier thoracic outlet syndrome is diagnosed, the more effective treatment can be. If you experience symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, we will work with you and your physician to design an individualized exercise program that could help you avoid surgery.