Symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome
Not all people with a cervical rib develop thoracic outlet syndrome, and the syndrome can also be caused by other conditions.
Symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome include:
- pain in your neck and shoulder, which spreads into your arm – this may be constant or come and go
- temporary loss of feeling, weakness or tingling in the affected arm and fingers
- temporary inability to carry out fine hand movements – such as doing up buttons
- Raynaud's phenomenon – a condition that affects the blood supply to the fingers and toes, turning them white
- a blood clot that forms in the subclavian artery – which can affect the blood supply to the fingers, causing small red or black patches on the skin
- swelling in the affected arm (although this is rare)
These symptoms vary widely from person to person. They may be constant or come and go.
Treating thoracic outlet syndrome
If you have thoracic outlet syndrome, your GP may refer you for physiotherapy. Shoulder exercises can help stretch and strengthen the neck area and correct poor posture. Massage may also help to release any tight or shortened neck tissues.
To relieve any pain and swelling, your GP may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as naproxen or diclofenac.
If you develop blood clots you may be prescribed thrombolytics to break them up, and anticoagulants to prevent further clots developing.
If these treatments don't help, surgery may be an option.