Nerves and blood vessels can be compressed in the space between your clavicle (collar bone) and your top rib. This space is called the “thoracic outlet” and the disorders caused by this compression are collectively called thoracic outlet syndrome.
Many conditions cause thoracic outlet syndrome. Physical injuries such as car crashes or falls can traumatize the structures of and in the thoracic outlet. Repetitive movements, poor posture, physiological changes during pregnancy, tumors, or changes in the bones can all cause compression of nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet space.
Symptoms depend on what gets compressed. Nerve compression will cause pain in your neck, shoulder, arm or hand. You may also feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in these areas. Blood vessel compression will cause you to feel cold in the affected body parts. Blood vessel compression can also cause weakness and swelling, and can trigger blood clots in your upper body.
Physical therapy may help to correct musculoskeletal causes of thoracic outlet syndrome. You may also need medication to control pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent blood clotting. More severe cases of thoracic outlet syndrome may require surgery.