Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause neck and shoulder pain or numbness in the fingers. This syndrome can be categorized in three different ways: neurological, vascular and nonspecific.
Neurological thoracic outlet syndrome is the most commonly treated. It occurs when the brachialplexus is compressed. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that connect to the spinal cord and control muscle movements and feeling to the arms, hand and fingers.
Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the nerves or blood vessels below the neck become impinged. Those nerves and blood vessels can be found in the thoracic outlet, which is located between the clavicle (collarbone) and the first rib.
Nonspecific thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when chronic pain develops in the thoracic outlet but a doctor cannot determine the specific cause of the pain.
This type of injury can occur because of physical trauma to the shoulder area from a car accident or sports injury. Women who are pregnant can develop this condition as the baby grows and pushes on the rib cage. Even an injury you had years ago can eventually lead to the development of this syndrome.
Symptoms of neurological thoracic outlet syndrome include numbness or tingling in the fingers, pain in the shoulder and neck, ache in the arm or hand and a weakening grip.
Symptoms of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome include weak pulse in the arm, bluish color in the hand, black tiny spots on the fingers, blood clot in the collarbone area and swelling of the arm.
Symptoms of nonspecific thoracic outlet syndrome include chronic pain in the shoulder and neckarea with no known cause.
When to See a Doctor
It is important to see a doctor, if your symptoms persist longer than a few days. An orthopedic specialist can give you a diagnosis and develop a specialized treatment plan just for you.