Dealing With Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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. In order to diagnose this condition, our physical therapists here at Oahu Spine & Rehab would move the shoulder joint into positions that could cause pinching in order to test the arm.

Major symptoms of thoracic outlet symptom:

  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Arm Pain
  • Numbness and tingling of the fingers
  • Poor circulation to the extremities

Most people are able to manage their thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms through physical therapy. Here in Kailua, our physical therapists are trained in instructing patients with exercises in order to help their pain. These exercises include shoulder shrugs and similar at-home exercises. Specialized exercises can improve muscle balance and posture to lessen your symptoms. Generally, surgery should be the last resort when treating this syndrome.

Compression that leads to thoracic outlet syndrome:

  • Trauma, such as that which might occur in a car accident
  • Muscle enlargement from weight lifting
  • Repetitive injury from job- or sports-related activities
  • Poor posture
  • An extra first rib (Cervical rib)
  • Obesity

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. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can alleviate immediate pain. A targeted program of physical therapy often produces results that can eliminate the need for surgery.

Other cautions should be taken in regard to taking care of your thoracic outlet syndrome. These include weight reduction for obese-related problems, make sure that you are avoiding activities that keep your arms overhead or held out. Also make sure that you are watching your sleeping positions and avoiding putting your arm behind your head or above your head while sleeping on your stomach.

The earlier thoracic outlet syndrome is diagnosed, the more effective treatment can be. If you are experiencing symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, speak with your physician or give us a call at 488-5555 to set up an appointment with our physical therapy department in order to design an exercise program that will specifically help your condition.

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