Brachial plexus injuries are injuries that affect the nerves supplying to the upper limb.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that transmits signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand; brachial plexus injuries therefore affect the signal transmission to these areas. Brachial plexus may be injured or damaged due to shoulder trauma, tumors, or inflammation.
Obstetric injuries that arise during a difficult childbirth (due to a condition called shoulder dystocia
) may also cause brachial plexus injury. Physical insults may cause the nerves in the plexus to stretch or get torn. Auto or motor cycle accidents, falls, contact sports are all common causes that traumatise the brachial plexus. The upper part of the brachial plexus often gets damaged where the shoulder is forced down and the neck stretches away from the injured shoulder. On the other hand, the lower nerves become vulnerable when one’s arm is forced above the head.
Minor injuries may result in symptoms like a burning or an electric-shock like sensation along the nerves of the upper limb, weakness or numbness. More severe injuries are associated with an inability to move the arm. While minor injuries get repaired on their own, serious ones may require surgical interventions. Physical therapy plays a major role in limiting or preventing disability.