Imagine being injured by your own bones or muscles. That’s what happens to patients with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that goes misdiagnosed in many. If proper treatment is given right away, patients could be cured for good.
Jamila Crooks told Ivanhoe, “The last three years have been stressful. Holding a coffee cup was very difficult. Going from doctor to doctor not being able to pinpoint what was really wrong.”
Crooks had no idea what was causing the pain, until she met Dr. Karl Illig. He told her she had thoracic outlet syndrome.
“I was just so relieved to know that I’m not crazy,” explained Crooks.
Thoracic outlet syndrome, or TOS, affects a complex area at the base of the neck where arteries, veins or nerves can be squeezed.
Karl Illig, M.D., director of vascular surgery and professor of surgery at University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and a staff surgeon at Tampa General Hospital said, “The space through which those structures have to go is inadequate.”
Crooks’ pain can be traced back to a car accident. But Dr. Illig said TOS can strike athletes, musicians and anyone who does repetitive overhead motions.
Physical therapy can resolve minor symptoms, but if that doesn’t work surgery is typically the best option.
“In neurogenic TOS, we would remove the rib, ideally remove both muscles and ideally remove the scar tissues from the nerves although there are several different ways of doing this,” explained Dr. Illig.
“It’s helped a lot. I am able to do things that I was doing before,” said Crooks.
Without a pain in the neck to bring her down.
Dr. Illig said there are only about 12 to 15 centers around the country that specialize in treating thoracic outlet syndrome. There are three different kinds of TOS. One affects the veins and one that affects nerves. The artery can also be affected but this is rare.