Brachial Plexus Injury Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of a brachial plexus injury can vary from person to person, depending on the severity and location of the injury.
Most often, brachial plexus injuries affect only one arm.
Minor brachial plexus injury symptoms
People often sustain minor brachial plexus injuries while playing contact sports — such as football, hockey, or wrestling.
Also called burners or stingers, this type of injury involves stretching or compressing the nerves of the brachial plexus.
It can cause symptoms like:
- The feeling of an electric shock or burning sensation shooting down your arm.
- Numbness and weakness in your arm.
While these symptoms last for a few minutes in most cases, some may find that they linger for a few days.
Severe brachial plexus injury symptoms
Car or motorcycle accidents — or other high-impact injuries — may tear or rupture the nerves of the brachial plexus.
In serious cases, the impact can actually tear the nerve root away from the spinal cord. This is a condition known as an avulsion.
Traumatic brachial plexus injury symptoms include:
- Weakness or inability to use muscles in your hand, arm, or shoulder.
- Lack of movement or feeling in the arm, including the shoulder and hand.
- Severe pain.
When to see a doctor for a brachial plexus injury
Brachial plexus injuries can cause permanent weakness or disability.
Even if your injury appears to be minor, see a doctor right away if you have:
- Recurring burners and stingers.
- Weakness in your hand or arm.
- Weakness in any part of the arm after an injury.
- Paralysis of the upper arm or shoulder.
- Neck pain.
- Any of the above symptoms in both arms.
Brachial plexus injury diagnosis
It's vital to have a doctor diagnose and treat your brachial plexus within six months of the injury. If you delay, treatment may not be 100 percent effective.
After an exam, your doctor may order tests to determine the location and severity of your injury.
Tests to help diagnose the severity of a brachial plexus injury may include one or more of the following:
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans
Learn more about diagnostic tests for brachial plexus injuries
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