A Short Overview of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
shoulder pain vein

Thoracic outlet syndrome can have significant effects on the veins in your shoulder.

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition resulting in a compression of the nerves, veins, and arteries in the thoracic outlet, the space between the armpit and the lower neck. A fairly rare disorder, it can significantly restrict circulation in the shoulder and arm and heavily damage the nerves within the shoulder. It’s usually caused by a traumatic injury, but congenital defects can greatly increase a patient’s risk.

Thoracic outlet syndrome isn’t a life-threatening condition, but it does require an effective treatment program. We’ll outline some of its common causes and symptoms and help you find an appropriate course of treatment.


Thoracic outlet syndrome is usually caused by a traumatic injury such as a torn rotator cuff, whiplash, or a dislocated shoulder. In other cases, it’s a product of weightlifting, throwing, swimming, or any other activity that places prolonged pressure on the shoulder. Some patients with multiple cancer, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia may also suffer from it. Regardless of the specific cause, symptoms arise as bone, muscle, or other surrounding tissues apply further pressure on the neurovascular bundle in the shoulder.


The most common symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome include persistent pain, swelling, and numbness in the shoulder, arm, and fingers, a sense of coldness in the arm, and consistent weakness in it. If the condition affects the veins, it can result in blood clotting, paleness in the hand, and a weak or nonexistent pulse in the arm.


Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome is designed to expand the thoracic outlet and reposition any tissues or structures responsible for the compression. Most patients benefit significantly from regular stretching and a physical therapy regimen, but in some cases, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers can also provide relief. If the condition affects circulation in the shoulder, alternately icing and heating it can promote the flow of blood. Surgery may also be necessary if the symptoms are caused by a structural defect such as cervical rib.

It can cause particular damage to the veins in your shoulder, weakening circulation in your arms and increasing your risk of blood clots. The damage can be permanent if the condition isn’t quickly diagnosed and treated. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, contact a doctor or a qualified vein specialist today and schedule an appointment.

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