Carpal Tunnel Syndrome versus Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is defined as pain and paresthesia of the hand in the area of distribution of the median nerve, primarily in the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring finger. It is caused by a mechanical compression to the median nerve that runs through the palm side of the wrist and hand. It is often associated with repetitive motion, such as in typing or playing a musical instrument.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is defined as a compression of the brachial plexus and/or compression of the arteries and veins by attached muscles in the region of the first rib and the collar bone. It is characterized by pain in the arm, numbness in the fingers, and weakness in the hand muscles. It is most commonly caused by physical trauma, anatomical defects (extra rib), pregnancy or idiopathic.

The following chart describes the symptoms of both conditions:

Carpal Tunnel Signs and Symptoms Thoracic Outlet Signs and Symptoms
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Burning pain
  • Shocking sensations in the hand
  • Pain that radiates up the forearm to the shoulder
  • Weakness and dropping things
  • Trouble with fine-motor skills
  • Abnormal colour in the hand
  • Discomfort and inflammation in the arm or hand
  • Pale fingers or hands
  • Diminished pulse
  • Cold hands, fingers, or arms
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands
  • Discomfort around the collarbone and into the neck

Understanding the differences between these two conditions is important in treatment plans and self-care. Proper assessment and treatment are essential to decrease signs and symptoms of CTS and TOS. At Sunnybrea Therapeutics we are well-versed in both the assessment and treatment of these two conditions. Please book an appointment with us if you feel you are affected by one of these conditions.