Thoracic outlet syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition in which the nerves or vessels behind the collar bone (clavicle) become compressed or stretched. Arm pain, weakness, or numbness often result.

The arm pain can be similar to angina, which is the pain that is associated with a heart attack. Although angina consists mostly of chest pain, it may start in or spread to the arms.

Symptoms typically occur with lifting the arms to shoulder level or other positions that put pressure on the nerves and vessels behind the collar bone. Treatment includes stretching and strengthening exercises as well as avoiding activities that cause symptoms. In rare cases, surgery is needed to relieve the nerve compression.

Last Updated: September 19, 2009

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine

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