3 Easy Ways to Differentiate between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) involve similar areas of the body and are often confused when trying to diagnose the problem is not all the proper questions are asked or exams performed. Here are a few simple ways to differentiate between the two, which can better inform your treatment.


1. Bakody’s Sign:

Technically, this is a test performed to diagnose the presence of cervical nerve

root lesions. That is the medical jargon term for “pressure on a nerve in the neck” causing shooting pain or numbness into the arm. To perform this test on yourself, just take your involved arm and place it on your head. If the pain goes away, you are dealing with a cervical nerve root lesion and you should seek care from a Gonstead chiropractor right away, as we can help you!


2. Temperature of the hands:

CTS is the compression of the median nerve, which creates symptoms largely just in the hand, and only the nerve tissue is involved. TOS involves the compression of the neurovascular bundle (both nerve and arterial tissue) which not only causes tingling and numbness, but also coldness in the hands. When you are trying to figure out if you are going to get CTS surgery, be sure to note the temperature of your hands because many disappointed people have had the surgery only to find that their problem was caused by muscle tightness and/or rib misalignment in the upper back and neck. Once again, your Gonstead chiropractor will be able to not only properly differentiate between the two, but will be able to take pressure off of the neurovascular bundle at the problem’s root issue.


3. Double Crush Syndrome:

 CTS is the result of pressure placed on the median nerve in one or more places. This pressure can be placed in the wrist (the carpal tunnel), at the elbow (the pronator teres muscle), and also at the C6 nerve root in the neck. Sometimes multiple compression sites result in the cumulative effect of CTS. When multiple compression sites are involved, this is known as “double crush syndrome” and can often be alleviated without surgery by adjusting the cervical spine or releasing the pronator teres muscle. TOS would not respond to pronator teres stretching and resting, or to cervical spine adjusting, but WOULD respond to adjusting of the upper thoracic spine. Bottom line, your Gonstead chiropractor needs to get a thorough exam as well as a few adjustments on your spine to know exactly what you are dealing with and how you’ll best respond.


In sum, when you are dealing with pain in your shoulder, neck, arm, wrist, or hand, and there is transient pain, tingling, and numbness involved, you are very much dealing with a nerve problem. What nerve problem? Hard to say without further questioning, testing, and adjusting. The great thing about Gonstead chiropractic is that we are experts in the complexity of the nervous system, and if you start with chiropractic and not the scalpel, we are better equipped to be able to help you avoid surgery unless it is the only option left…as it should be.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *