A brachial plexus injury occurs when the set of nerves that conducts signals between the brain and shoulder, arm and hand are damaged. These nerves exit the spine in the upper back and can become torn or stretched when the shoulder is pressed one way and the head is pressed in the opposite direction. Falls from a height, auto accidents, sports injuries or direct trauma are some of the more common ways the brachial plexus becomes damaged.
A difficult childbirth can result in this type of injury when the newborn’s shoulder becomes twisted or impacted. Symptoms can include a stinging or burning sensation which travels down the entire arm and hand. Numbness may follow. Because the nerve covering is thinnest at the point it emanates from the spine, the root area is usually where a tear or rupture is sustained during a violent accident. If you have symptoms of brachial plexus injury, the medical experts at Chapman Spine and Orthopedic Institute can help you with expert analysis and treatment.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In diagnosing a brachial plexus injury, the extent of the symptoms is the first clue. Stinging, burning and numbness may be very slight or may last for hours or days. There can be weakness, arm pain and unusual rotation of the arm. If the nerve is torn from the spinal cord extreme symptoms result such as paralysis of the arm, lack of arm motion but ability to move the fingers and severe pain.
Electromyography (EMG) can be used to confirm a brachial plexus injury and determine its extent. This test analyzes electrical activity and can help the diagnostic specialist determine the degree of impairment. Treatment options sometimes include surgery but more often include occupational and physical therapy, gentle range of motion exercises and symptom-relieving medication. Infants suffering from this type of birth injury are special cases and require monitoring and gentle care through a recovery period to determine if surgical treatment is needed.
Contact Chapman Orthopedic Institute
for expert care if you or a loved one suffers from a brachial plexus injury.