Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a collection of symptoms of pain and numbness that can extend from the neck area to the hand.
Symptoms often result from the compression of nerve and blood structures in the space between the scalene muscles in the neck, collarbone and first rib.
Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs more often in people who perform repetitive activities above the shoulders such as swimming, racquet sports or simply in manual workers. This syndrome is more common in women than in men.
Nerves and blood vessels in the space between the muscles of the neck, collarbone and first rib are often involved in this condition.
A fracture of the collarbone, altered posture, a supernumerary rib or overdeveloped chest muscles can lead to thoracic outlet syndrome.
Symptoms depend on which vascular or nerve structures are compressed. Thoracic outlet syndrome can produce, but is not limited to, pain in the neck, shoulder, arm or hand. Symptoms may also include numbness in the forearm and some fingers. People may also experience a feeling of weakness on the affected side.
Compression of the blood vessels may cause a decrease in blood flow to the arm, resulting in increased swelling and redness in that arm. Symptoms usually appear or increase when the arms are extended, or held high above the shoulders for a period of time. They are often more acute at night.
Your rehabilitation plan, health profile and fitness level affect the recovery time. In most cases, you can expect a full recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome. Recovery will depend on the severity of the compression.
A few days of rest by reducing activities that cause pain may be necessary. A gradual return to your daily activities, light cardiovascular exercise and mobility and strengthening exercises will allow for better recovery.
Follow your therapist’s advice. This will help you manage the various stages of the healing process and increase the odds of successful rehabilitation. Your therapist will accompany you during your rehabilitation program to help you regain optimal posture, joint range of motion, muscle flexibility, muscle endurance and functional status.
According to the principles of thoracic outlet syndrome, improving posture and reducing muscle tension would be two important elements for functional recovery. A progressive rehabilitation program over a period of a few weeks is quite common.Do not rely solely on a passive treatment approach. Each phase of the rehabilitation process is important. Patients who actively participate in their treatment plan tend to recover more quickly. Remember that pain is not always a good indicator of tissue damage. As soon as you feel better and the pain is well under control, introduce, in collaboration with your therapist, light and progressive exercises based on your tolerance.