Are You at Risk for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? (Video)

Most common type affects middle-aged women

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) occurs when a vein, artery or nerve leading out of a person’s chest to their upper extremity or arm becomes compressed by a rib, collar bone or nearby muscles.

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The condition can lead to these problems:

  • Clotting of the veins
  • Damage or injury to the artery affecting blood flow to the arm
  • Impinged nerves leading to abnormal sensation or dysfunction of the hand

There are various forms of TOS, with neurogenic TOS being the most common.


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Generally, neurogenic TOS affects young and middle-aged women. It is related to abnormalities of bony and soft tissue in the lower neck area that compress and irritate the nerves that allow for movement and feeling in the arm and hand.

Symptoms include weakness or numbness of the hand; decreased size of hand muscles, which usually occurs on one side of the body; and pain, tingling, prickling, numbness and weakness of the neck, chest and arms.

Studies have shown that, in general, TOS is more common in women than men, particularly among those with poor muscular development, poor posture or both.

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If you are diagnosed, talk to your doctor about physical therapy. Often, this alone can help. As this is a complex disease process, it’s important to work with an experienced doctor if you are diagnosed with TOS.

More information
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Treatment Guide


Daniel Clair, MD

Daniel Clair, MD

Daniel Clair, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Vascular Surgery at Cleveland Clinic. In 2007, Dr. Clair was named one of America’s Top Doctors.
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