Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a disorder that involves the compression of nerves or blood vessels in the space between the clavicle (collarbone) and the first rib. This space is called the thoracic outlet. The disorder is typically caused by physical trauma, repetitive activities, obesity, poor posture, pregnancy, and can even result from anatomical defects. There are three different types of thoracic outlet syndrome: neurogenic (neurological), vascular, and nonspecific-type. Symptoms vary depending on which type of the disorder is present.
Neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome:
This type is the most common and involves nerve compression under the clavicle (collarbone), specifically the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves from the spinal cord. This network of nerves is responsible for the muscles and sensations of the shoulders, arms, and hands. Symptoms for this type of thoracic outlet syndrome include but are not limited to: numbness or tingling in the arm or fingers, neck pain, shoulder pain, hand pain, and weak grip.
Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome:
This type involves vein or artery compression under the clavicle (collarbone). Symptoms for this type of thoracic outlet syndrome primarily relate to a lack of blood flow, and include but are not limited to: bluish hands, pain and/or swelling in the arm, blood clots in the upper body, pallor of the finger or entire hand, weak to no detectible pulse in the arm, cold fingers (can radiate all the way up the arm), arm fatigue, numbness or tingling in the arm or fingers, and the appearance of a lump near the clavicle (collarbone).
Nonspecific-type thoracic outlet syndrome:
This type is also called "disputed thoracic outlet syndrome) because doctors are in disagreement as to whether this type actually exists. Nonspecific-type presents with chronic pain in the thoracic outlet area, but the cause of the pain is typically unable to be determined.