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Self portrait: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is a common side effect of whiplash. It is caused by pinching of the blood vessels and/or thoracic nerve that run down the arm. The symptoms typically include nerve pain from the shoulder all the way down to the hand, tingling or numbness in the hand and fingers, and muscle weakness. 

I made this piece after getting in a car accident in the spring of 2019. From the resulting whiplash I developed very bad thoracic outlet syndrome on top of my existing chronic pain. The added pain was extremely difficult to bear and at times I had difficulty moving my left hand or gripping things. When I thought about how to depict this I remembered a time in my childhood when I felt a wasp latch onto my left pointer finger. The aversion and tensing of muscles I felt in that moment was similar to the sensations in my fingers, hand, arm and shoulder. The burning of wasp stings also paralleled the pain when at its worst.


After a lot of chiropractic work (and leaving my job that involved a fair amount of sitting and manual labor) the pain finally began to subside. Now, it comes back only on bad days. My preexisting chronic pain has not changed.

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