Do you ever suffer from pain in your neck and shoulders? For many, that is a common complaint and can be stress related or even something as simple as sleeping in a bad position. However, there could be another reason for this condition as well and it is known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is actually a group of disorders that can occur when the blood vessels or nerves in the thoracic outlet, or the space between your collarbone and first rib, becomes compressed, causing pain in the neck and shoulder area. Thoracic outlet syndrome can also cause numbness in the fingers or a weakened grip. Some of the signs or symptoms that thoracic outlet syndrome can produce include:
- Discoloration of the hand
- Blood clot under the collarbone
- Arm pain and swelling
- Throbbing near the collarbone
- Weak or no pulse in the affected arm
- Tiny black spots on the fingers
So what causes thoracic outlet syndrome and how do you know when you should seek treatment? There are a number of common causes including physical trauma (such as from a car accident), injuries caused from repetitive motion, pregnancy and even poor posture can lead to this condition. Thoracic outlet syndrome affects men and women equally, though most people do not experience symptoms until later in life. Anyone experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, prolonged pain in the neck and shoulders or numbness in the fingers should consult a physician.
When seeking treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome, a comprehensive exam and early detection are key factors in developing a treatment plan and, for most patients, the prognosis is very good. It is important the the treating physician have a thorough understanding of the disorder and the patient’s medical history.
As a Chiropractic Neurologist, Dr. Marc Ellis has a unique understanding of both the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system and how they work together. Through an evaluation of the movement of all of the joints and muscles, along with an assessment of the relay centers of the brain, which control the postural muscles, Dr. Ellis and his team are able to correct the abnormalities causing the pain, therefore treating the root cause of the problem, rather than just the symptoms.
Once a diagnosis has been made, the goals of treatment are to correct postural abnormalities that might contribute to the compression and minimize the recurrence of the postural abnormalities. Targeted manipulations, specific stretches and exercises are a few of the treatment options. For most patients, a conservative course of treatment works well for thoracic outlet syndrome, especially when diagnosed early. In addition to the treatment mentioned above, physical therapy and relaxation techniques have proven helpful as well. As with any medical condition, the proper course of treatment varies by patient and individualized care is essential. If you believe you may be suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, be sure to see a doctor and keep these tips in mind for taking care of yourself at home: maintain good posture, take frequent breaks at work and practice relaxation techniques when possible and in general, avoid unnecessary stress on your shoulders and muscles around the thoracic outlet.