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What is the Thoracic Outlet?


Question: What is the Thoracic Outlet?
Answer: The thoracic outlet is an area of your upper torso between your armpit and your throat. It is a really fancy way of saying the space between your clavicle, otherwise known as your collar bone, and your upper most rib known as the first rib. This space, the thoracic outlet, is surrounded by muscle and tissues as well.

The area between these two bones serves as a passage way for the subclavian artery, the subclavian vein, and the neurovascular bundle made up of the brachial plexus and some smaller nerves.

The subclavian artery and vein transport blood to and from the arm, shoulder and hand and to parts of the head and neck. The brachial plexus is a nerve bundle that controls the arms, hand and shoulder. They are all rather thick “tubes” passing through the tight triangular passage way of the thoracic outlet.

Compression of the subclavian artery, subclavian vein or brachial plexus can cause a host of disorders collectively known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Locating the Thoracic Outlet

You have two thoracic outlets, one on your right side and one on your left that are mirror images of each other.

To find your thoracic outlet first locate your collar bone. Your collar bone runs across the top of your chest from shoulder to shoulder with a dip in the line at your throat. Find the bottom of your throat. Pressing the soft flesh there will instigate your gag reflex. Immediately to the side is a hard, somewhat protruding nub of bone. That is part of the collar bone and you can follow it to your shoulder.

Move along your collar bone towards your shoulder and inch or two. Move down another inch and feel for your first rib. The area between those two bones is your thoracic outlet.

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