Physio Edge podcast

Patients with thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) may have undiagnosed pain and symptoms into their shoulder, arm, hand, scapula, head, face, upper back, axilla, chest and anterior clavicle.

With a number of potential sources of pain in these areas, TOS patients commonly have a delayed or incorrect diagnosis, followed by unnecessary and unsuccessful surgery. Further complicating matters, imaging and nerve conduction studies are often clear or inconclusive. Studies show that on average, patients with TOS have an average of 5 years of symptoms and see 6 doctors before receiving an accurate diagnosis.

What tests and questionnaires will help guide your diagnosis and intervention? When are patients suitable for Physiotherapy and conservative management? When should you refer on for a surgical opinion?

In this podcast with Jo Gibson (Clinical Physiotherapy Specialist), you will discover:

  • What is Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)?
  • Commonly reported symptoms of TOS
  • Three different types of TOS
  • The most common type of TOS with around 80% of all TOS patients
  • Why imaging and investigations are often clear, and don’t match up with symptoms
  • 3 key causes of TOS
  • The relationship between TOS and hypermobility syndrome
  • Criteria for diagnosis in the latest TOS diagnostic consensus statement
  • Differential diagnosis (DDx) - Cervical NR compression, and peripheral nerve entrapment
  • Common subjective findings that guide you towards a diagnosis of TOS
  • A questionnaire you can use to assist cervicobrachial diagnosis
  • What information is gained from imaging, including MRI and MR Neurography & nerve conduction studies
  • What are the limitations of imaging?
  • What is the difference between small nerve fibre and large nerve fibres, and how this impacts diagnosis
  • QST - Quantitative sensory testing - Pin prick (Neurotip) and Thermal testing - warm and cold
  • Simple QST test using a coin
  • Objective testing
    • What tests do you need to perform in patients with suspected TOS?
    • What is the elevated stress test (EST)?
    • What information does an upper limb tension test (ULTT) provide?
    • Does a negative ULTT test exclude TOS?
  • How are nerve blocks used?
  • What is the best way to perform a nerve block?
  • How effective are nerve blocks in assisting diagnosis?
  • Who should we refer on for early medical or surgical management?
  • When should you get an early surgical opinion?
  • Which patients are likely to benefit from conservative management?

Podcast handout

Free video series “Frozen shoulder assessment & treatment” with Jo Gibson

Shoulder: Steps to Success online course with Jo Gibson

Improve your assessment and treatment of shoulder pain with the Shoulder: Steps to Success online course with Jo Gibson, now available for enrolment at

Articles associated with this episode:

Direct download: Physio_Edge_096_Thoracic_outlet_syndrome_with_Jo_Gibson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am AEST