Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Edward C. Murphy, MD, PA

Neurological Surgery & Chiropractic located in Houston, TX & Pasadena, TX

If you have pain or numbness in your neck or arms, it could be caused by thoracic outlet syndrome. At Edward C. Murphy, MD, PA, in Houston and Pasadena, Texas, Edward C. Murphy, MD, and Bogar Ventura, DC, diagnose and treat thoracic outlet syndrome with innovative therapies to reduce your symptoms and restore your health. Call your nearest office or schedule a consultation online today.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Q & A

What is thoracic outlet syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome is the name for symptoms caused by the compression of nerves and blood vessels in your thoracic outlet. 

Your thoracic outlet, a narrow space between your first rib and your collarbone, allows blood vessels, nerves, and muscles to extend between your shoulders and chest. 

When your thoracic outlet becomes narrow, it reduces the space available for your blood vessels and nerves, which can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms. 

What are the signs of thoracic outlet syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms vary depending on whether your nerves or blood vessels are compressed.

Signs of nerve compression include:

  • Pain in your neck, shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Numbness in your forearm, hand, or fingers
  • Weakness in your hand

Signs of compressed blood vessels include:

  • Swelling in your arm
  • Redness in your arm
  • Arms and hands feel cold 
  • Arms and hands are easily fatigued

You may also find it difficult to lift objects above your head, or you may have a reduced range of motion. If both your nerves and blood vessels are compressed, you may have a combination of symptoms. 

What causes thoracic outlet syndrome?

Many conditions can cause thoracic outlet syndrome. For example, if you’re overweight or have poor posture, you can reduce your thoracic outlet. 

Additionally, an injury from an automobile collision, sports injury, or repetitive use injury can cause thoracic outlet syndrome. In rare cases, thoracic outlet syndrome is due to an extra rib.

How is thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosed?

Dr. Murphy and Dr. Ventura diagnose thoracic outlet syndrome with a physical exam. They ask about your symptoms, health, and lifestyle. During your exam, they may use some provocation tests to trigger symptoms and identify the cause. 

Your doctor may also order diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs. Tests such as electromyography and nerve conduction studies measure your nerve function and can locate the compression that’s causing your symptoms.

How is thoracic outlet syndrome treated?

Dr. Murphy and Dr. Ventura offer customized treatment plans to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. Your treatment program may include a variety of therapies, such as:

  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Weight loss

In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to create more space in your thoracic outlet.

If you’re concerned about thoracic outlet syndrome, call Edward C. Murphy, MD, or make an appointment online.