Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition whereby symptoms are produced from compression of nerves or blood vessels, or both, because of an inadequate passageway through an area (thoracic outlet) between the base of the neck and the armpit.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms include
- neck pain,
- shoulder pain,
- arm pain,
- numbness and tingling of the fingers,
- impaired circulation to the extremities (causing discoloration).
- Diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome is suggested by the symptoms and physical findings and is sometimes supported by electrical and/or radiology tests.
- Treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves physical-therapy exercises and avoiding certain prolonged positions of the shoulder.
What is thoracic outlet syndrome?
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a condition whereby symptoms are produced (such as numbness in fingers, pain in shoulder, arm, and neck) by compression of nerves and/or blood vessels in the upper chest. The passageway for these nerves and blood vessels to exit the chest and supply the upper extremities is referred to as the thoracic outlet. Muscle, bone, and other tissues border the thoracic outlet. Any condition that results in enlargement or movement of these tissues of or near the thoracic outlet can cause the thoracic outlet syndrome. These conditions include muscle enlargement (such as from weight lifting), injuries, an extra rib extending from the neck (cervical rib), weight gain, and rare tumors at the top of the lung. Often no specific cause is detectable.
It is felt by some scientists that the evolution of the torso of primates from a four-legged to a two-legged position may predispose humans to the development of thoracic outlet syndrome. The resulting vertical posture produced flattening of the chest cage and a shift of the shoulder joint backward, both of which narrowed the thoracic outlet.