Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a condition that occurs when there is compression or irritation of the nerves, arteries, or veins in the thoracic outlet. The small opening between your collarbone and your first rib is known as the thoracic outlet. TOS can cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and other symptoms in your arms, neck, and shoulders. If left untreated, TOS can lead to serious complications such as blood clots and nerve damage. In this article, we will discuss how to manage and treat TOS.
DIAGNOSIS OF TOS
Before treatment can begin, a proper diagnosis of TOS must be made. Your doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms and medical history. They may perform a physical examination to look for signs of TOS, such as swelling or muscle weakness in your arms or shoulders. Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR TOS
The severity and underlying cause of TOS will determine how it is treated. There are several treatment options available, including non-surgical and surgical treatments.
Non-surgical treatments for TOS
Non-surgical treatments for TOS include physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles in your neck and shoulders, improve your posture, and increase your range of motion. Your physical therapist may also use techniques such as massage, stretching, and ultrasound to reduce pain and inflammation.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help to reduce pain and inflammation associated with TOS. Your doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxants or nerve pain medications to help manage your symptoms.
- Lifestyle changes
Lifestyle changes such as improving your posture, avoiding repetitive movements, and taking frequent breaks during activities that require prolonged arm or shoulder use can help to relieve symptoms of TOS.
Surgical treatments for TOS
In some cases, non-surgical treatments may not be effective in relieving symptoms of TOS. Surgery might be required in certain circumstances.
Surgical options for TOS include:
- First rib resection
During this procedure, the surgeon removes the first rib to relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet.
- Scalene muscle resection
The scalene muscles in the neck can contribute to the compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet. In this procedure, the surgeon removes part of the scalene muscle to relieve pressure.
- Cervical rib removal
In rare cases, an extra rib may be present in the neck, which can contribute to TOS. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the cervical rib to relieve pressure.
Although TOS is not always preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition.
- Practice good posture
Maintaining good posture can help to reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders and prevent the development of TOS.
- Avoid repetitive motions
Repetitive motions such as typing, using a computer mouse, or playing an instrument can contribute to the development of TOS. Take frequent breaks and stretch your arms and shoulders to reduce the strain on your muscles.
- Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help to improve your posture, strengthen your muscles, and reduce your risk of developing TOS.
- Manage underlying medical conditions
Medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and thyroid disorders can increase your risk of developing TOS. Managing these conditions can help to reduce your risk.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
If you are experiencing symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms, shoulders, or neck, it is important to see a doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment of TOS can help to prevent serious complications such as blood clots or nerve damage. Additionally, if you have a history of TOS or have undergone treatment for TOS in the past, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience a recurrence of symptoms.
To improve your overall quality of life and reduce the risk of developing serious complications, take steps to prevent TOS, and if you experience symptoms, seek medical attention or call Specialty Care Clinics at 469-545-9983.