Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a set of symptoms in the shoulder, arm or hand that occurs from a narrowing of the thoracic outlet (the space between the collarbone and first rib). Thoracic outlet syndrome is not common and can affect people of any age.

Shoulder muscles normally keep the collarbone or clavicle elevated and in place. With thoracic outlet syndrome, the upper rib and clavicle are closer, which makes the thoracic outlet smaller. Nerves and blood vessels in the area may be compressed.

Illustration of the chest showing position of the lungs and pleura.

If you have pleurisy, the lining around your lungs is inflamed. This is most often due to a viral infection or pneumonia. It usually lasts for 10 to 14 days. It may cause sharp pain with breathing, coughing, sneezing, and movement. Antibiotics are usually not prescribed for this condition unless bacterial pneumonia is also present.

The following tips will help you care for your condition at home:

  • If symptoms are severe, rest at home for the first 2 to 3 days. When you resume activity, don't let yourself get too tired.

  • Don't smoke. Also stay away from secondhand smoke.

  • You may use over-the-counter medicines to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. (Note: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or have ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk to your provider if you are taking medicine to prevent blood clots.) Aspirin should never be given to anyone younger than 18 years of age who is ill with a viral infection or fever. It may cause severe liver or brain damage.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Coughing up lots of colored sputum (mucus) or light, blood-tinged sputum

  • Redness, pain, or swelling of the leg

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Increasing shortness of breath

  • Increasing chest pain, or pain that spreads to the neck, arm, or back

  • Coughing up blood