Thoracic outlet syndrome, or TOS, is a painful vascular and neurological disorder that occurs when nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet become compressed. This problem can be the result of repetitive stress, such as work- or athlete-related motions, or inflammation that occurs due to an injury.
The thoracic outlet is an area of space between your collarbone and first rib. Nerves and blood vessels run from your head and neck, under the collarbone, through the armpit, and down your arm to your fingers. Thus, if anything happens to this bundle of nerves or blood vessels, it can cause serious damage to a large area of your body. If the thoracic outlet becomes inflamed through repetitive stress or injury, it can compress these tissues.
First, if just the nerves are affected by swelling in this area, you can develop neurogenic (neurological) TOS. This can cause your arm and hand to ache as well as tingling or numbness in your fingers. Overall, this can cause you to lose the strength of your grip. Additionally, you may have pain in your neck and shoulders.
Next, when your blood vessels are compressed, you may have vascular TOS. Because the swelling reduces or even cuts off the blood supply to your arm, your hand and arm may become bluish or lose color completely. Additionally, you may notice black spots on your fingers. Your arm may feel heavy, painful, and swollen as blood is trapped in the limb. Lastly, you may experience a throbbing lump near the collarbone where fresh blood gets dammed up.
Lastly, some people develop a nonspecific thoracic outlet syndrome. Although some doctors discredit this form, others believe it is a common problem. Nonspecific TOS causes pain in the thoracic outlet area, but doctors are unable to pinpoint the exact vascular or neurogenic cause.
If you now suffer from TOS due to a work-related repetitive motion injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation to aid in your treatment and recovery. To discuss your case, contact an experienced Raleigh workers’ comp attorney from Scudder & Hedrick, PLLC, today.