Clinicians from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University caution against misdiagnosis of shoulder and arm pain commonly experienced by athletes and those who work as hair stylists, mechanics, and similar occupations. The pain complaint could be the result of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), a more serious condition caused by compression of the vein, artery or nerves running between the collarbone and the first rib. TOS can, in severe cases, also result in large and dangerous blood clots. Because it is missed, some patients may have TOS and resultant pain for years without realizing it. Patrick Vaccaro, MD, Chief of the Division of Vascular Diseases and Surgery at Wexner Medical Center commented “There are a wide range of symptoms and many causes to consider with upper extremity pain, so TOS can be missed or take a while to diagnose.”
Thoracic outlet syndrome is commonly caused by repetitive overhead motions and can be seen in anyone from tennis players or swimmers to musicians, trade workers and those who sit at a desk with their arms too high. Only about a third of people who develop the disorder can recover with physical therapy. Most will ultimately need surgery to open the thoracic outlet by removing a section of the first rib. “I’ve had several patients tell me it’s been life-changing. You remove part or most of the rib, and it’s the first time they remember not being in pain,” said Dr. Vaccaro. Read more about the recommendations, with access to further information from the Wexner Medical Center, here.