Learn About Hypothyroidism and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Are They Linked?

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There is no direct, confirmed link between hypothyroidism and thoracic outlet syndrome. Many doctors simply suspect that some of the complications that can arise with hypothyroidism can either lead to thoracic outlet syndrome or mimic its symptoms. Hypothyroidism is defined as a condition in which the patient’s thyroid is underactive. Thoracic outlet syndrome is defined as a group of disorders in which the nerves or blood vessels located in the thoracic outlet become compressed.


Pregnancy is the only thing these two conditions have in common. However, the reasons for hypothyroidism in pregnancy and the reasons for thoracic outlet syndrome in pregnancy are completely different.


Both conditions seem to have some symptoms in common. Both conditions can cause stiffness, pain, and swelling in the joints, as well as tender and achy muscles. However, patients with hypothyroidism can feel these symptoms everywhere while those with thoracic outlet syndrome will experience these symptoms in their shoulder, arm, neck, hand, and collarbone area.


Hypothyroidism and thoracic outlet syndrome are two very different conditions, but certain diagnostic tests are the same. First and foremost, the patient’s doctor will perform a complete physical exam and discuss the patient’s medical history, her family’s medical history, and her symptoms. A blood test can be very beneficial in diagnosing hypothyroidism, but it is used to rule out other conditions when used in the diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome. Other diagnostic tests include imaging studies, such as x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computer assisted tomography (CT scan). When diagnosing thoracic outlet syndrome, nerve conduction studies and electromyography can be very beneficial in determining the cause of the condition.


Both conditions are treated very differently. Hypothyroidism is mainly treated with a medication called levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone. The most common treatments for thoracic outlet syndrome include relaxation, physical therapy, pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and muscle relaxers. In more severe cases, surgery may be performed.


Mayo Clinic. (2009). Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Retrieved on December 23, 2009 from the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/thoracic-outlet-syndrome/DS00800

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Hypothyroidism. Retrieved on December 23, 2009 from the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothyroidism/DS00353