Do You Have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? What Works to Help Symptoms

If you’ve never heard of thoracic outlet syndrome, the term alone can sound ominous; however, if you’ve heard of a “pinched nerve” you might be more familiar with one of the causes of this condition. Symptoms can range from annoying to disruptive, so seeking treatment is imperative in helping you improve. Here’s what it is, what it feels like, and what you can do about it:

Thoracic outlet syndrome is: caused by blood vessels and/or nerves being compressed as they pass through the area between your first rib and your collarbone. If you’re picturing your first rib somewhere on your side, you’ll actually need to travel a little bit higher to find it: your first rib is actually near the base of your neck! It also tends to affect women more than men, and younger vs older adults.

Thoracic outlet syndrome has a variety of causes, such as:

  • poor posture (there it is again!)
  • trauma – like a car accident
  • anatomical anomalies present from birth
  • repetitive activity such as lifting, typing, etc.
  • joint pressure – such as from being overweight, or even pregnancy which affects joint laxity

(Neuralgic) thoracic outlet syndrome has multiple symptoms depending on which nerves are affected:

  • numbness/tingling in arms/fingers
  • pain/discomfort in neck, hand, or shoulder
  • a weaker grip

… if blood vessels are affected symptoms may be:

  • arm fatigue
  • weak pulse
  • discoloration of hand
  • numb/tingling in hand
  • arm/neck weakness
  • arm pain and swelling – blood clots

Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome:

Depending on the nature of your thoracic outlet syndrome, physical therapy is usually a front-line treatment. Your physical therapist will work to determine the best treatment plan for you based on a thorough assessment of your body and symptoms. You will likely receive a combination of manual (hands-on) therapy as well as at-home exercises focused on both stretching and strengthening the affected area/s. You’ll also likely learn how to help improve your symptoms with proper posture, lifting, and to avoid carrying heavy loads on the affected side. Many people see improvement with stretching and strengthening exercises through physical therapy.

If you have any of the above symptoms, or other pain, movement, or issues of the musculoskeletal system, Body One Physical Therapy is ready to help get you moving in the right direction. We’re locally-owned and operated, with three locations serving Central Indiana: North Indianapolis, Fishers, and Zionsville. Our expert physical therapists work with clients of all ages and activity levels, and we’d love to show you why we’re Indy’s top PT practice! Call us today to schedule your appointment.