Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - Treatment

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What is the treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome? What are medications for thoracic outlet syndrome? Is surgery necessary for TOS?

Treatment of the thoracic outlet syndrome can usually be successful with conservative measures. Treatments include a variety of exercises that effectively stretch open the tissues of the thoracic outlet. These are done with and without weights in the hands to pull the outlet into a "relaxed" open position. Physical therapists are specially trained in the instruction of exercises for thoracic outlet syndrome, and their evaluation of the patient can be helpful. Shoulder-shrug exercises and others can be done at home or at work to relax the muscles around the thoracic outlet.

A health-care professional might prescribe medications to help improve the symptoms, such as anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen [Advil], naproxen [Aleve]) and muscle relaxants.

Some patients with severe, resistant symptoms can require surgery to open the thoracic outlet. These procedures include interruption of the scalene muscle (scalenotomy) and removal (resection) of the first rib in order to spare injury to the affected nerve and blood vessels from ongoing compression. Thoracic outlet syndrome that affects the vascular system (veins and arteries) is more likely to require surgery to resolve the symptoms.

Return to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Tess, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: November 25

I have thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) and am in my last week of physical therapy. I do my at-home therapy faithfully. My therapist stated I should have been showing some signs of improvement but I actually feel I'm getting worse. I'm a dental hygienist and I know my job is the cause, with the constant repetition and my arms being held out away from my body all day long. By the middle of each work day I have so much pain and heaviness. I don't want to move it. I just want to keep it hugged to my side. Unfortunately, my patients still need to be seen so I continue through the pain. My orthopedic doctor mentioned possible removal of a rib but we didn't go into great detail about that option yet. Next week is that appointment. I just know I can't keep working like this. If there are more people that had success with rib removal surgery I'd like to hear about it.

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Comment from: suprised, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: March 31

I was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) just recently. I have extreme pain in my left arm to the point where driving is difficult as well as writing, and so on. I also have neck pain on left side. This showed up 6 months after an accident I have went through physiotherapy, had shots, drugs, and massages. I was diagnosed by a vascular surgeon, after many doctors thought I was nuts or told me to meditate. I am now scheduled for surgery in a week. I am a little skeptical, a lot optimistic but either way I don't see a better choice. I urge those who believe they have TOS to be your own advocate and researcher. Many doctors mocked me when I said I thought that I had TOS.

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