Thoracic outlet compression, also known as thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), is a group of conditions that occur when the blood vessels or nerves between the collarbone and first rib are compressed. This can cause pain and numbness in the shoulders, arms, and fingers.
TOS can be caused by a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, but it can also be the result of repetitive work-related movements. Symptoms of TOS are typically pain in the neck, shoulders, or hand, tingling in the hand or fingers, weakened grip, and discoloration in the hand or fingers. Pain may be exacerbated by lifting the arms overhead, or by exaggerated movements of the head and neck. This can present problems for people whose work requires regular overhead arm movements.
Holding tools or objects above shoulder level can also exacerbate the symptoms of TOS, as can carrying heavy objects. Treatment for TOS typically involves physical therapy and pain management. However, for more serious cases of TOS, or for cases where symptoms are not treated early on, nerve damage may occur. Surgery may be required in extreme cases of TOS.
If your TOS symptoms interfere with your ability to work, you may need to either adjust your job duties or find ways to prevent certain movements, such as overhead reaching. If these tactics prove ineffective, you may need to consider taking a short-term disability leave, or filing a claim for long-term disability benefits.
There are several tests that can provide evidence of TOS, which will be used to prove your disability to the insurance company. Provocative tests are used to attempt to reproduce your symptoms. Your doctor may ask you to lift your shoulders or make certain movements with your neck. If your symptoms are produced during the test, or if certain changes in your breathing or pulse are detected, this may indicate a diagnosis of TOS.
Other tests, such as x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or ultrasounds may also be used to detect compressed blood vessels or other signs of TOS. Your doctor may advise you to avoid certain activities, which could effectively prevent you from working in some cases.
If you have previously filed a claim for disability benefits due to TOS and been denied, consider appealing your claim with assistance from a long-term disability attorney. Contact the experienced ERISA lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick to discuss whether you should appeal a denial of your claim for long-term disability benefits.