Have you ever taken a fall and almost landed on your head? When you got up from your fall did you notice that the side of your body you fell on was burning or stinging? If you answered yes then you could have experienced a brachial plexus injury.
What is a brachial plexus injury?
A brachial plexus injury is commonly known as a burner/stinger. A brachial plexus injury is when the network of nerves going from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand become stretched, compressed and in some cases torn.
What causes a brachial plexus injury?
This injury happens when your shoulder is pressed down forcefully and your head is pushed in the opposite direction of your shoulder. A direct hit to the upper part of the shoulder can also cause this injury.
What events can cause a brachial plexus injury?
- Contact sports such as football
- Trauma such as a motor vehicle accident
- For children difficult births
What are the symptoms of a brachial plexus injury?
The symptoms of a brachial plexus injury vary depending on the severity of the injury. However symptoms are most commonly on one side of the body.
Less severe symptoms are:
- Burning or stinging pain going down the arm
- Numbness and weakness in that arm
These less severe symptoms are often due to a stretch or compression of the plexus due to a contact sport or fall.
More severe symptoms are:
- Unable to move or feel the injured arm
- Severe pain
- Weakness in the muscles of the hand
These more severe symptoms are often due to a tear in the nerves of the plexus.
How long do symptoms last?
In less severe cases the symptoms last anywhere from a few seconds to several days. In more severe cases the injury can be permanent if not address immediately.
When to see a doctor
A brachial plexus injury should always be evaluated by a qualified medical professional such as a medical doctor or chiropractor.
In some cases a brachial plexus injury can lead to permanent damage and loss of function if not treated in a timely manner.
Here are signs that warrant immediate medical attention:
- Weakness in the arm or hands
- Weakness following trauma
- If you have suffered multiple burners/stingers
- Neck pain
- Symptoms in both arms
How do you treat a brachial plexus injury?
Treatment for brachial plexus injuries depends on the severity of the injury.
For less severe injury:
- Time, most minor injuries will correct itself over time
- Muscle strengthening and posture exercises: to maintain motion in the joint and to prevent further injury
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for pain control
For more severe injury:
- Surgery for nerve repair
- Physical therapy
The best treatment for brachial plexus injuries that do not tear a nerve is prevention of multiple injuries. Prevention comes from strengthening exercises for the surrounding muscles, range of motion exercises to keep the joints of the shoulder and arm moving, and recommendations for proper protective gear when playing contact sports.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a brachial plexus injury and wish to discuss your treatments options please schedule your appointment today.