The thoracic outlet is the space between the collarbone and the first rib. This area houses blood vessels, nerves and muscles. If the shoulder muscles in the chest are not strong enough to hold the collarbone in place, it can slip down and forward compressing the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet.
“Nerve and blood vessels are being compressed as they come out of the neck and shoulder,” says Michael D. Riggenbach, M.D. “This can cause pain, numbness, discoloration in the limb and the pain can oftentimes been seen during activities such as raising your arms above your head.”
The symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome vary depending on which nerves and blood vessels are being compressed. Symptoms can include:
- Vague aching pain in the neck
- Swelling and redness of the arm
- Difficulty performing overhead activities
- Limited range of motion
- A depression in the shoulder
- Swelling or discoloration in the arm.