Can Work Activities Cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause muscle wasting, nerve pain, and a weakened grip. There are many different potential triggers, but for some people, work is the culprit. Fortunately, if you are suffering from this condition, your orthopaedic doctor can help you get out of pain and back to your normal activities.

What is thoracic outlet syndrome?

Thoracic outlet syndrome refers to a set of disorders causes by the compression of the blood vessels and nerves between your collarbone and first rib. This area is called the thoracic outlet and is a transition zone for a network of vessels and nerves. There are multiple forms of thoracic outlet syndrome. The most common types are:

  • Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome: Occurs when the brachial plexus is compressed.
  • Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome: Occurs when one or more blood vessels under the clavicle are compressed. The condition is called venous thoracic outlet syndrome when one or more veins is compressed, and if the arteries are affected, it is called arterial thoracic outlet syndrome.
  • Nonspecific-type thoracic outlet syndrome: Occurs when the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome are present but the cause cannot be determined. Doctors disagree about the validity of this form of the condition.

What are the symptoms?

If the nerves are compressed, numbness in the arms and fingers and pain in the neck, shoulders, and hands are common. You may notice that your grip does not feel as strong, and the muscles at the base of your thumb may begin wasting. If the blood vessels are compressed, arm pain, pale hands or hands with a bluish tint, cold fingers, and arm fatigue are common.

How does work trigger thoracic outlet syndrome?

Repetitive use injuries are common causes for thoracic outlet syndrome. If your job requires you to perform the same motions repeatedly, then your risk of developing this condition increases. Other causes are acute physical traumas, anatomical defects, and pregnancy.

Your orthopaedic doctor at MK Orthopaedics may recommend physical therapy or surgery if you have thoracic outlet syndrome. If you’re suffering from these symptoms or another type of orthopaedic issues, such as ankle pain or an ACL tear, we can help. Make your appointment with an orthopaedic doctor in Joliet by calling (815) 741-6900.

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