Thoracic outlet syndrome is really a cluster of symptoms. It is one of those common undiagnosed or missed injuries in a car accident. The result of a brachial-plexus injury, and that occurs where your clavicle and your first rib come together, where there is an opening. That opening is collectively known as the “thoracic outlet.” And through that thoracic outlet passes a cluster of nerves, veins and arteries.
There are actually two types of thoracic outlet syndrome, for example:
- A seat belt restrains you, but let’s your shoulder and part of your chest pass over it, in an accident it will crunch that space or decrease the area, and it could impinge on nerves, or veins, or arteries. Thoracic outlet syndrome or TOS is evidenced by numbness or tingling in the fingers (you may notice it when you go to do an overhead activity and you close that area off causing weakness and pain.
- There’s also vascular TOS, which occurs when the veins or the arteries are what is being pinched. By doing overhead work, you can have a distinct change in temperature in the limb or your fingers, which is caused by closing off the blood supply.
People that have it very bad have symptoms of both, because you have closed off, impinged, or increased scar tissue from the straining/tearing of that area that is designed to let these things pass, from your body, your spine, and out into the arm.