Epilepsy & Seizures
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Mar. 29, 2021
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Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a term that refers to three related syndromes involving compression of the nerves, arteries, and veins in the lower neck and upper chest area. This compression causes pain in the arm, shoulder, and neck.
Symptoms of TOS vary depending on the type:
The outlook for people with TOS varies according to type. Most people will improve with exercise and physical therapy. People with vascular TOS and true neurogenic TOS often need surgery to relieve pressure on the affected vessel or nerve.
Who is more likely to get thoracic outlet syndrome?
There are many causes of TOS, including:
TOS is more common in women. Symptoms usually begin between ages 20 and 50.
How is thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing TOS. Doctors usually recommend nerve conduction studies, electromyography, or imaging studies to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of TOS. It can be difficult to diagnose because a number of disorders have symptoms similar to those of TOS. Those disorders include:
TOS can sometimes be diagnosed in a physical exam by:
Treating TOS. Treatment begins with exercise programs and physical therapy to:
Doctors will often prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as naproxen or ibuprofen) for pain. Other medicines include:
If this doesn't relieve pain, a doctor may recommend thoracic outlet decompression surgery to release or remove the structures that are compressing the nerve or artery.
How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with thoracic outlet syndrome?
Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about TOS and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.
All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.
Where can I find more information about thoracic outlet syndrome?
The following organizations help patients, families, friends, and caregivers of people living with TOS:
American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
Phone: 916-632-0922 or 800-533-3231
National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
Content source: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/thoracic-outlet-syndrome Accessed June 29, 2023.
The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.