4 years ago

written by Gregory Pearl, MD

Do you find yourself shrugging off asymmetrical hand and arm pain as nothing serious? Does your hand ever become numb for no reason at all? Do your fingers tingle without provocation? Does one of your hands often feel cold?  It could be a sign of something more serious, especially if it gets so painful that you become unable to carry out your daily activities. Consider the possibility of thoracic outlet syndrome.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

iphone-4s-white-in-hand-pain-numb-vascular-doctor-surgeon-top10md-dallas-fort-worth-near-meA group of disorders occurring when blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and first rib (also known as your thoracic outlet) are compressed for some reason. The result? Pain in your shoulders, neck, and fingers, accompanied by occasional or persistent numbness.

Often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel, the most common cause of thoracic outlet syndrome is an having an anatomical defect– namely, an extra cervical rib above your first rib. This rib causes trauma to your subclavian artery. An aneurysm (an enlargement of your artery caused by a weakening of your artery wall) may form, starving the artery that “feeds” blood to your arm.

Symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

  • Arm Fatigue
  • Cold Fingers
  • Discoloration
  • Gilliatt-Sumner Hand
  • Numbness
  • Throbbing
  • Tingling
  • Swelling
  • Pallor
  • Weakening Grip
  • Weak Pulse

Causes of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

  • Poor Posture – Avoid slumping your shoulders or holding your head in a forward position– it causes compression in the thoracic outlet area.
  • Pregnancy – Because your joints loosen when you’re pregnant, signs of this syndrome may first appear during pregnancy.
  • Repetition – Over time, doing the same thing repeatedly wears on your body’s tissues. If your job requires you to repeat a movement (typing, working assembly lines, lifting things above your head), you could develop thoracic outlet syndrome. Athletes can also develop this syndrome from years of repetitive movements.
  • Trauma – Traumatic events like car accidents can cause internal changes that compress the nerves in your thoracic outlet.

Treatments for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

  • Pain Relief Measures
  • Physical Therapy
  • 50-80% of the time, surgery successfully corrects thoracic outlet syndrome.

Who Is At Risk?

  • Age Range – Most cases of thoracic outlet syndrome appear between the age of 20-50 years old.
  • Women – Thoracic outlet syndrome is more common in women versus men.

Dallas Vascular Surgeon Dr. Gregory Pearl is board certified by the American Board of Surgery in General Vascular Surgery and a Fellow of Peripheral Vascular Surgery. Dr. Pearl is named Top10MD – 1-in-3 doctors succeed with this recognition in the United States. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Pearl link to his profile or call his office today 214-821- 9600.


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