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November 02, 2017 4 min read

What is the difference between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

If you work for too many hours typing on a computer, or moving your wrists, maybe you have heard about carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS. It’s an ailment that develops throughout time and results in numb, and sometimes even painful fingers. It happens to hairdressers, administrative assistants, computer programmers, assembly line works, construction workers, and many other people who work daily with their hands. However, many people believe they have carpal tunnel when they really suffer from thoracic outlet syndrome.

How to distinguish them from one another? And what can we do about it, if anything?

Carpal tunnel syndrome may have similar symptoms to thoracic outlet syndrome, but they are very different from each other. The problem with carpal tunnel is located on the wrists, in the passage of a nerve called the median nerve. This nerve is compressed after repetitive motions, and causes the sensation of numbness in our hands, especially in the thumb, index, and middle finger. Your fingers feel swollen, you can lose your grip, and it may happen in both hands at the same time.

Workvie Work Wellness Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain Relief Median Nerve

In contrast, the problem with thoracic outlet syndrome can be located near your pecks, specifically in the muscles pectoralis minor and scalene. They are located near your shoulders, and when they are tight, they can pinch the nerve and even restrict the blood flow to your arm. As a result, you would also feel numbness and weakness in your fingers, but with an additional pain in the arm and more generalized symptoms.

Workvie Work Wellness Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

What Can You Do for Pain Relief?

They have similar symptoms because they both affect the median nerve, and additional nerves in the case of thoracic outlet syndrome. But understanding where the problem is located is what will guide self-care, the exercises you can do at home to relief the pain, and the treatment plan your physician will suggest. There are several tests to distinguish one from the other, such as the Phalen’s test, where the patient flexes his/her wrist with the forearm held vertically.

To alleviate carpal tunnel, before opting for carpal tunnel release surgery, you should try to keep your wrists straight when doing the activities that trigger the numbness and pain. When you feel pain, stop the activity and resume gradually when you feel better. It is useful to ice your wrists and use a pain relief cream with wrist splint, which is a type of brace that lets your wrists in a stable position to protect your median nerve. Research has shown that gently massaging the wrist area and fingers improves the numbness and pain in carpal tunnel, and even more if you decide to do it along with a nutrient rich pain relief cream such as Workvie Work Pain Relief Therapy Cream. Formulated with Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM, Workvie has been designed to provide relief to any work-related pain, including carpal tunnel syndrome. The mild scent allows you to use the cream while you work and not have to wait too long to get relief.

Workvie Pain Relief Cream 4oz

Thoracic outlet syndrome relief is about relaxing a tight muscle, massaging, keeping a good posture, and stretching. Stretching your pectoralis minor by standing in a doorway, placing, your hands on the frame, and leaning forward can help if you do it every night. Another great option is to self-massage because studies show that home stretching, moist heat, and anything that promotes muscle relaxation can improve the pain. Pain relief therapy creams, such as Workvie are recommended if you decide to try massaging and muscle relaxation. Eucalyptus is a part of the Workvie’s formula to induce relaxation to your tight muscles, thus reducing pain and letting you resume your productivity. Apply the cream starting at the shoulder and down the arms.


Workvie Work Wellness

Workvie is a brand dedicated to improving the work wellness of hardworking individuals. You put forth your maximum effort at work and our products are here to help you feel your best. Work Better. Live Better.

Infographic – What is the difference between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome by Workvie Pain Relief Cream

Workvie Pain Relief Cream 4oz


This article does not replace the diagnosis and treatment of a medical doctor and should only be used as a guide. Workvie Work Pain Relief Therapy cream does not treat medical issues and claims have not been approved by the FDA. It should be used as directed. Glucosamine is not recommended for people with diabetes, pregnant or nursing women, and children. Consult a doctor.


Vanti, C., Natalini, L., Romeo, A., Tosarelli, D., & Pillastrini, P. (2007). Conservative treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome. Eura Medicophys43, 55-70.

Field, T., Diego, M., Cullen, C., Hartshorn, K., Gruskin, A., Hernandez-Reif, M., & Sunshine, W. (2004). Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened following massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement therapies8(1), 9-14.