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Physiother Theory Pract. 2013 Oct;29(7):562-71. doi: 10.3109/09593985.2012.757684. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Diagnosis and treatment of a patient with bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome secondary to anterior subluxation of bilateral sternoclavicular joints: a case report.

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  • 1Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA.


Thoracic outlet syndrome may result from a posterior sternoclavicular (SC) joint subluxation, or an anterior SC joint subluxation after surgical fixation. This case report presents the physical therapy management of a patient with bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) secondary to bilateral idiopathic anterior SC joint subluxation. A 16-year-old female presented with a 2-year history of numbness, tingling, and coldness in bilateral upper extremities, and intermittent headaches with occasional vision loss. Ipsilateral upper extremity symptoms were reproduced with cervical rotation and shoulder flexion and abduction from 90° to end of the range. All TOS tests were positive. Passive horizontal abduction, through the plane of scaption, produced anterior subluxation of the ipsilateral SC joint. Sustained posterior glides to the medial clavicle relieved all symptoms during shoulder flexion and the Adson's test. Interventions consisted of manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and the trial of two orthoses. After 12 treatment sessions, the patient's symptoms resolved and she improved by 10 points on the Upper Extremity Functional Index. She had no reproduction of symptoms with the thoracic outlet special tests. She maintained a static hold for 90 sec at 90° shoulder flexion, 90° shoulder abduction, and full shoulder flexion without symptoms. The outcomes describe a successful intervention for a patient with bilateral TOS secondary to idiopathic bilateral anterior SC joint subluxation. This case suggests that SC joint dysfunction should be considered as a cause of TOS and should be screened during the initial examination.

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