Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) happens when the bundle of nerves and blood vessels that passes through the neck and collarbone gets pinched between to muscle groups in the shoulder. This can manifest in minor discomfort or excruciating pain, usually centered around the limbs that the nerve and blood vessel bundle feeds into.
Sometimes it can only be felt as a bit of numbness in the pinky and ring fingers, or an ache in the upper or lower arm, shoulder, or neck, sometimes even the back. Tingling and discoloration can occur too.
Moderate to extreme cases of TOS can seriously affect the patient’s quality of life, as it certainly limits the activities that one can engage in. Signing up for a gym membership, of joining a martial arts class, for example, must be carefully weighted and considered. A lot of women decide to forego having children as they fear that pregnancy might aggravate symptoms. And not only that, but the physicality of taking care of a baby and rearing a child may be too much for a body that suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome.
For those who suffer severely, only surgery can offer relief. For mild to moderate cases, some physical therapy is sufficient to address the symptoms. Physiotherapy treatments usually involve improving the posture, so that the least possible pressure is exerted on the neurovascular bundle. When patients learn to open up their chests when they’re walking and during their everyday activities, it loosens up the muscles in the neck and shoulder and minimizes the pinch that it makes on the nerves. Exercises that stretch out the nerves that run from the neck to the hand help a lot too.
If you live in Chicago, you can make a consultation at Piano Vein & Vascular to learn about treatment options.