Original Editor – Ernest Gamble
T4 syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion when all other diagnoses do not fit the clinical pattern. It is a rare occurrence of symptoms involving upper limb parathaesia, weakness with reduced thoracic movement and tenderness on palpation of the T4 vertebra.
It was originally theorized these symptoms exist due to sympathetic nerve fibers converging at T4. It is thought that the head and neck are provided with sympathetic outflow from T1 to T4. The upper trunk and extremities are thought to be supplied by T2 to T5. This could account for the symptoms in the neck, head, and upper extremities.
Clinically Relevant Anatomy[edit | edit source]
There are two major types of joints between the vertebrae 
– Symphyses between vertebral bodies
– Synovial joints between articular processes
In thoracic regions, the joints are oriented vertically and limit flexion and extension, but facilitate rotation 
The thoracic spinal nerves mostly innervate respiratory, visceral and lower back areas however, T1 and 2 do also provide some of the upper limb.
T4 syndrome is a rare occurrence with little high quality evidence to prove it as a diagnosis so caution should be used when diagnosing this as the primary pain driver.
In the worse case scenarios red flag questions to rule out long-standing visceral issues should be asked specifically regarding:
Characteristics/Clinical Presentation[edit | edit source]
T4 syndrome is an exclusion diagnosis: once other issues have been excluded then it may be indicative of T4 syndrome.
- Symptoms may arise following a change in normal routine i.e. new job or hobby. These signs and symptoms could be the result of thoracic dysfunction and its influence on the sympathetic nervous system.
Typical presentation includes:
Less common symptoms:
- Pain around chest wall
- Worse pain at night
- Pain on deep breathing
- Pain on coughing or sneezing
- T4 syndrome is an exclusion diagnosis with no validated clinical criteria to assist the diagnosis.
- Radiographs are no aid in the diagnosis, but can help with ruling out other conditions.
- Subjective and objective assessments may also help to aid in excluding other diagnoses.
There is no evidence about examinations that include T4 syndrome. Unfortunately, a great deal of literature exists on shoulder pain, yet little exists in the area of periscapular or rib pain.
It can be concluded that the intervertebral joint around T4 is hypomobile in patients with T4 syndrome.
During objective examination it may be useful to assess:
- Overall observation of patient posture in sitting, standing and provocative movements
- Thoracic AROM
- Cervical AROM
- Shoulder AROM
- Passive thoracic and cervical ROM
- Shoulder and cervical strength
- Neurological assessment – (dermatomes, myotomes, reflexes) to determine whether nerve root or peripheral nerve lesions were present
After red flags are cleared it is then important to rule out other differential diagnosis especially in potential T4 syndrome as this is a rare condition therefore other diagnoses are more likely.
Dr.Yahya Al-RAzi Yemeni Physiotherapist is studying this Syndome and its muskeloskeletal-related pain
These can include:
After excluding other conditions including ruling out red flags and differential diagnosis, pain management should begin.
This should follow the standard ladder of analgesia however, if neurological symptoms are present it may be helpful to prescribe gabapentinoids or if pain is ongoing consider intramuscular injections of 1 to 2 mL of 0.5% bupivacaine at the fourth thoracic paraspinal level.
Physiotherapy and conservative management are the primary treatment options.
Physical Therapy Management[edit | edit source]
After analgesia has been optimized and if pain is still an issue with functional deficits, physiotherapy is the primary treatment option for T4 syndrome.
Various manual therapy techniques have been shown to have some affect on symptom relief.
- Thoracic joint mobilisation techniques are the basics in treating T4 syndrome. 
- Soft tissue mobilisation
- Address psycho-social factors and management of these anxieties/stresses 
- Graded exercise program to include:
- Neurodynamic mobilisations
- No self-report outcome measure has been validated for this specific condition. Any number of outcome measures would be appropriate for this patient population. This includes:
- Patient Specific Functional Scale (PSFS)  This scale can determine the functional status of the individual patient. There is asked to report the most important activities that are unable to perform and score them on a 11-points scale (0 = not possible to carry out activity, 10 = possible to carry out activity). A higher score means a better function
- Neck Disability Index (NDI): This questionnaire is a self-reported measurement that reports pain and limitations in performing daily work activities. This index can indicate how much the neck problems affect the daily activities.
- DASH : This questionnaire uses a 5-point Likert scale from which the patient can select an appropriate number corresponding to his/her severity in functioning.
No randomized controlled trials have examined the most efficacious intervention strategies.
T4 syndrome is described as “a pattern that involves upper extremity paresthesia”. It can be caused by thoracic hypomobility but can also have a sympathetic origin.
Typical signs and symptoms include headaches, neck and arm pain and ‘bilateral stocking glove’ paresthesia.
It is more likely to be a differential diagnosis and T4 symptom should only be concluded once other conditions are excluded.
Physiotherapy is the primary treatment option along with pharmacology management. Joint mobilisation of the thoracic spine, soft tissue work, mobility exercises and neurodynamic movements are all viable treatments and are best managed with a focus on reducing any potential psychosocial issues at the same time.
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