You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a doctor trained in blood vessel (vascular) conditions or blood vessel surgery.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do before you arrive at the office.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment. Be as specific and detailed as possible in describing your symptoms, including what part of your body is affected and what adjectives describe your discomfort.
Write down key personal information, including any physical traumas such as a car accident or work-related injury. Even if they occurred years ago, your doctor will want to know about them.
Also note any repetitive physical activities that you've performed now or in the past at work, in sports, and for hobbies and other recreational activities.
- List your key medical information, including other conditions you're being treated for and the names of any prescription and over-the-counter medications or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For thoracic outlet syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- How likely are nonsurgical treatments to improve my symptoms?
- If conservative treatments aren't effective, is surgery an option?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent a recurrence of this problem?
- Will I need to change my job?
- Do I need to limit or give up other activities that may be causing my symptoms?
- If you're recommending weight loss, how much weight do I need to lose to notice an improvement in my symptoms?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them with this condition?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- How would you describe your symptoms?
- Have your symptoms changed over time?
- Where does your pain seem to start and where does it go from there?
- Does the pain or numbness worsen when you lift your arms overhead?
- Does anything else seem to worsen or improve your symptoms?
- What activities do you perform on your job?
- Do you or did you play sports?
- What are your hobbies or most frequent recreational activities?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for any other medical conditions? When?
- Have you noticed a lack of color or a blue color in one or more of your fingers or your entire hand or other changes to the area?
What you can do in the meantime
While you're waiting for your appointment, try taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others).
Your discomfort also may be improved if you maintain good posture and avoid using repetitive movements and lifting heavy objects.
Aug. 01, 2013
- NINDS thoracic outlet syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/thoracic/thoracic.htm. Accessed May 8, 2013.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00336. Accessed May 8, 2013.
- Thoracic outlet compression syndromes. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/peripheral_nervous_system_and_motor_unit_disorders/thoracic_outlet_compression_syndromes.html?qt=thoracic%20outlet%20&alt=sh. Accessed May 8, 2013.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome. The Society for Vascular Surgery. http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/thoracic-outlet-syndrome.aspx. Accessed May 8, 2013.
- Goshima K. Overview of thoracic outlet syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 8, 2013.
- Bromberg MB. Brachial plexus syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 13, 2013.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed May 8, 2013.