When the blood vessels and nerves are squeezed near the thoracic outlet, it causes a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome.
It is not uncommon for car accident victims to develop neck, arm, shoulder, and hand pain. In most cases, the cause of this pain is the herniation of the spinal discs, or stretching or tearing of the ligaments in the neck. However, in some cases, the cause of this problem does not lie in the neck itself. The pain comes from the opening between the scalene muscles to the neck and the rib cage-area known as thoracic outlet. When the blood vessels and nerves are squeezed near the thoracic outlet, it causes a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome.
Common symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome can result from various factors, however, one of the most common reasons is trauma resulting from a car accident. A car accident can cause internal injuries that lead to compression of the nerves in the thoracic region and cause thoracic outlet syndrome.
The symptoms that a car accident victim may experience differ widely depending on the type of thoracic outlet syndrome he or she has. The main symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome are:
- Wasting of the Thenar Eminence (the group of muscles on the palm of the human hand at the base of the thumb
- Back and shoulder pain
- Numbness or tingling of the fingers
- Weak grip strength
- Aching of the hand or arm
Common symptoms of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome (artery or vein) include:
- A subclavian blood clot
- Bluish discoloration of the hand
- Throbbing lump near the collarbone
- Pain and swelling in the arm secondary to blood clots
- Tiny black spots (infarcts) on the fingers
- No or weak pulse in the arm
- Extreme paleness of at least one finger on your hand
In most cases, the symptoms do not show up immediately, and the car accident victim can experience these symptoms several months after the accident. This makes it especially important to seek medical attention after the car accident so that the doctor may assess the injuries completely.
Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome
There are various treatment options available for thoracic outlet syndrome depending on how severe the symptoms are, and how early they were diagnosed. Some doctors may begin the treatment with a conservative approach that includes physical therapy and relaxation therapy. The doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to relieve inflammation in the blood vessels and nerves. However, if these treatment options do not work, the doctor may recommend surgery. In severe cases, surgery is the only option to relieve the muscle weakness and pain associated with thoracic outlet syndrome.