Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Well done! You’ve taken the first steps to understanding and relieving your Thoracic Outlet Syndrome! Once you read this page answer the questions on the sheet given by your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia and bring that to your next treatment session. Recovery from your Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is crucial in order to achieve your goals and gain rapid and long-lasting results. Your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia has requested you read this page so that you understand your condition and know how to best manage in between physiotherapy consultations.

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

thoracic outlet syndrome The Thoracic Outlet is the opening at the top of the Thoracic Cavity. It is essentially a hole through a bony ring, that several vital structures pass through. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome occurs when one or more of these vital structures are compressed. In 95% of cases, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome affects the neurological system, specifically the Brachial Plexus. In 4% of cases the venous system is affected, and in less than 1% of cases, the arterial system. When the Brachial Plexus is compressed in the Thoracic Outlet, it restricts the conduction of nerve impulses travelling to and from the arm, hand and fingers. This can result in the sensation of pins and needles, numbness, a feeling of cold and/or pain in the arm, hand or fingers. It may also result in weakness of the hands and arms. Sufferers may also experience pain the neck and/or shoulder.

How did I get Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

The most common cause of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is trauma, such as a whiplash injury or with repetitive strain. This may include changes in postures, such as forward head posture, or rounded shoulders. Slightly common causes for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome are some congenital abnormalities, such as cervical rib, prolonged transverse process, muscular or fibrous connective tissue abnormalities. Rarely, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome may occur as a result of tumors, hyperostosis or osteomyelitis.

How can you help me with my Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

A detailed history, taken by your Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinician, of the pain or injury can help to diagnose the injury, while a physical assessment of the knee, hip and surrounding structures, can determine the specific structure and the best course of action in treating the condition. Treatment will depend on the specific cause of the symptoms. In most cases, a structured program to improve overall posture, as well as targeting specific points with a variety of techniques will be used to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. In some rare cases, referral to your GP may be indicated.

What should I do to avoid aggravating my Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

  • DO NOT sit or stand with slumped posture. Be sure to keep the head and shoulders back.
  • REMAIN ACTIVE, but avoid aggravating activities.
  • RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles de-loaded and moving freely with no restrictions.
Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Thoracic Outlet Syndrome has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.
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