Brachial Plexus Injury

A brachial plexus injury occurs when a network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand is stretched or torn. Brachial plexus injuries are often called stingers or burners because they feel like an electric shock or burning sensation in the arm.


Brachial plexus injuries are usually caused by a traumatic injury to the head or neck. These injuries are common in contact sports, car accidents, and difficult childbirths. You are more likely to experience a brachial plexus injury if you have a narrow spinal canal.


Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the injury. However, most brachial plexus injuries start with a sudden burst of pain that radiates from the neck to the shoulder and arm. Pain ranges from a dull ache to burning or stinging. The arm may also feel weak. In severe injuries, there can be a complete lack of movement and feeling in the arm.


In order to diagnose brachial plexus injuries, physicians will review symptoms and the results of a physical exam. Additional testing such as x-rays, MRIs, and EMGs to evaluate electrical activity in the muscles may be necessary.


In mild to moderate brachial plexus injuries, nerves that have been stretched may recover on their own with the help of rest and physical therapy. Surgery could be required to repair the brachial plexus nerves. However, surgery should occur within six months after the injury to be effective.

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