What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

TOS is an umbrella term that encompasses three related syndromes that cause pain in the arm, shoulder, and neck: neurogenic TOS (caused by compression of the brachial plexus), vascular TOS (caused by compression of the subclavian artery or vein) and nonspecific or disputed TOS (in which the pain is from unexplained causes). Occasionally, neurogenic TOS and vascular TOS co-exist in the same person. Most doctors agree that TOS is caused by compression of the brachial plexus or subclavian vessels as they pass through narrow passageways leading from the base of the neck to the armpit and arm, but there is considerable disagreement about its diagnosis and treatment. Making the diagnosis of TOS even more difficult is that a number of disorders feature symptoms similar to those of TOS, including rotator cuff injuries, cervical disc disorders, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, complex regional pain syndrome, and tumors of the syrinx or spinal cord. Symptoms of TOS vary depending on the type.

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