Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ


I've heard that thoracic outlet syndrome is caused by an extra cervical rib. Why won't my doctor just remove the rib?


Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) involves pressure on the arteries or nerves running from the neck to the arm. TOS is rarely caused by an extra cervical rib. Surgery to remove the extra rib is only done when your doctor is absolutely sure it is causing the problem.

The pressure of TOS can start in at least nine different spots. It is often difficult to figure out exactly where your problem starts. That is why doctors usually recommend non-surgical treatment of TOS. You may work with a therapist to improve your posture, strength, and body mechanics to help ease the pressure. Stretching the muscles of the chest and shoulders can help. Swimming is a good exercise, as long as you avoid the backstroke and breaststroke. Non-surgical measures usually help as long as the muscles of your hand have not weakened and shrunk (atrophied) as a result of TOS.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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