Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a very unique and rare condition involving pain in the neck and shoulder, which then turns into numbness, tingling, and eventually the manifestation of grip problems and strength issues in the fingers and hands.
TOS may not be fatal, but it can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, as their mobility and dexterity are often forever affected by the pressure placed on nerves and blood vessels, and the pains and tingling they experience in their neck and shoulders leading to the manifestation of TOS in the hands and the fingers.
TOS is caused by the pressure and pinching of blood vessels that supply blood to the shoulder and collarbone on their way down into the arms and hands. These blood vessels occasionally do not have enough room to pass through adequately as they pass the collarbone, and this issue in turn causes a lack of blood flow, and pain and numbness in the hands and fingers and through the arms.
Compression can be caused by an extra rib in some people, or by an abnormally tight band that connects the spinal vertebrae to the rib and affects the blood flow and viability of the blood vessel. Additionally, people with long necks are more likely to develop this condition, due to the added pressure placed on nerves and blood vessels around the clavicle and throughout the body.
Symptoms of TOS are pretty straightforward, and can include pain, numbness, and tingling of the fingers, starting in the pinky and ring fingers and developing across the hand, forearm, and eventually up the arm. Additionally, pain and tingling will occur in the neck and shoulders, as well as the issue that carrying something heavy may actually make symptoms worse over time.
In some people, there are more visible signs of poor circulation in the hands and forearm, and they may include issues around a bluish color in the hand, and an abnormally cold hand and swollen arms and joints. Additionally, significant weakness in the muscles of the hands typically occurs in TOS and can be affected by a great deal of TOS issues to impact a person’s quality of life.
People with TOS deal with serious physical issues around mobility and dexterity, but they do not have to deal with life-threatening issues or conditions. Typically, those suffering from TOS also have surgery where a surgeon makes a hole in the clavicle to allow the blood vessel to more seamlessly travel across the body and improve blood and circulation flow throughout the arm.