TOS is an umbrella term that encompasses three related syndromes that cause pain in the arm, shoulder, and neck: neurogenic TOS (caused by compression of the brachial plexus), vascular TOS (caused by compression of the subclavian artery or vein) and nonspecific or disputed TOS (in which the pain is from unexplained causes). Occasionally, neurogenic TOS and vascular TOS co-exist in the same person. Most doctors agree that TOS is caused by compression of the brachial plexus or subclavian vessels as they pass through narrow passageways leading from the base of the neck to the armpit and arm, but there is considerable disagreement about its diagnosis and treatment. Making the diagnosis of TOS even more difficult is that a number of disorders feature symptoms similar to those of TOS, including rotator cuff injuries, cervical disc disorders, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, complex regional pain syndrome, and tumors of the syrinx or spinal cord. The disorder can sometimes be diagnosed in a physical exam by tenderness in the supraclavicular area, weakness and/or a "pins and needles" feeling when elevating the hands, weakness in the fifth ("little") finger, and paleness in the palm of one or both hands when the individual raises them above the shoulders, with the fingers pointing to the ceiling. Symptoms of TOS vary depending on the type.
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