Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Overview
Identified as the small passageway that occurs from the base of the neck to the arm, the thoracic outlet consists of several nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. In cases where the thoracic outlet becomes compressed or restricted, it can cause thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), which is associated with several symptoms, including a burning sensation in the neck and/or shoulder, numbness and tingling in the fingers, and a weak hand grip. Typically, thoracic outlet syndrome develops in patients anywhere from the age of 20 – 60, and it is more prevalent among females. At Sports Hernia Texas, board-certified surgeon Dr. Anthony Echo treats thoracic outlet syndrome through various surgical and nonsurgical procedure methods in order to offer relief from symptoms. Contact our practice in Houston, TX to learn more and to schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Echo to discover how he can help you.
Types of TOS
There are three types of thoracic outlet syndrome that may have varying symptoms, including:
- Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome: Identified by compression of the brachial plexus (nerves that originate from the spinal cord and control movement of shoulder muscles)
- Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome: Develops when one or several of the veins or arteries below the collarbone are compressed
- Nonspecific-type thoracic outlet syndrome: Characterized by chronic pain that occurs in the thoracic outlet but no specific cause can be identified
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Causes
Compression of the nerves and blood vessels within the thoracic outlet can occur for multiple reasons, such as:
- Bad posture: Poor posture, such as drooping your shoulders, can cause restrictions to the thoracic outlet
- Trauma or injury: Changes internally can occur after a traumatic accident, causing the compression of nerves
- Genetic defects: Certain defects that are inherited, such as an extra rib, may cause thoracic outlet syndrome
- Repetitive movements: Wear on your body’s tissues can occur with repeated activities, such as typing or playing sports
- Stress on your joints: Both obesity and continuously carrying around a heavy backpack or bag can cause significant pressure on your joints and lead to compression
- Pregnancy: Due to the loosening of joints throughout pregnancy, certain symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome can occur
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Symptoms
There are several symptoms associated with the rare condition of thoracic outlet syndrome. Most often, the hands, arms, and shoulders are affected and some of the most common symptoms and side effects include:
- Numbness and pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm
- A tingling and burning sensation
- Weakness of the extremities
- Limited movement of the arms
- Redness and inflammation in the arms
- Changes in color in the hands or arms
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment Options
At Sports Hernia Texas, Dr. Echo utilizes both nonsurgical and surgical techniques to properly treat thoracic outlet syndrome, depending on the specific needs and concerns of the patient. During a thorough consultation, Dr. Echo will utilize advanced, state-of-the-art technology to accurately diagnose your condition and determine the underlying cause. He may recommend a chest x-ray, an MRI, or a CT scan to be conducted to obtain a more in-depth look. Additionally, he may advise that a blood test, a nerve conduction velocity study, or an electromyogram evaluation be performed. After diagnosing your condition and its cause, Dr. Echo will then be able to create a thorough treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms. In most cases, nonsurgical methods will be recommended prior to the use of surgical techniques.
Nonsurgical approaches can include physical therapy exercises, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, weight loss, and changes to your lifestyle. These help to reduce the amount of pressure put on the nerves and blood vessels, as well as reduce any existing inflammation.
When nonsurgical approaches may not be an option or they do not help to treat symptoms, Dr. Echo may then recommend a surgical procedure. The specific procedure performed will depend on the cause of your condition. Some common surgeries provided for relief from thoracic outlet syndrome include removing a portion of an abnormal first rib (transaxillary approach) or the release of a muscle that connects the neck and chest (supraclavicular or infraclavicular approach).
Following any procedure, our team at our Houston facility will provide you with all appropriate aftercare instructions in order to allow you to heal properly. You may also need to attend follow-up appointments so that Dr. Echo can evaluate your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment.
Thoracic outlet syndrome can greatly affect your quality of life and keep you from your normal daily routine. Thankfully, Dr. Anthony Echo at Sports Hernia Texas can help find the best solution for your specific needs and offer you significant relief from your symptoms. If you are suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome or believe you are experiencing associated symptoms, contact our practice in Houston, TX today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Echo.