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If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury, it’s natural to want to learn more about the injury and what you should do next. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of brachial plexus injuries, the symptoms of brachial nerve injuries and irritation, and the common causes of brachial plexus injuries.
Let’s take a closer look at these birth injuries, similar conditions, and what treatment options are available.
What Is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
Your brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control sensation in your arm and hand. Brachial plexus anatomy is important for the function of your entire arm and hand and are some of the most important nerves in your upper arm.
If you’re wondering when a brachial plexus injury occurs, there are a range of different types of brachial plexus injuries. They can be mild or severe and can occur at any point in life. Unfortunately, one of the most common times to get brachial plexus palsy is during birth, when you receive a brachial plexus injury as a newborn.
Injuries to your brachial nerves can cause weakness, loss of feeling, and loss of movement in your shoulder, arm, and hand. Weakness and loss of feeling may be general or localized to specific parts of your arm.
In terms of brachial anatomy, your brachial nerves are in your shoulder, connecting around the joint.
Injuries can range from swelling and irritation to pulls and strains, or even disconnecting the nerve, or pulling the nerve from the normal connection point. Fortunately, even if you have a relatively severe injury there are treatment options that can help reverse movement and sensation loss and restore normal function to your arm.
Fortunately, most brachial plexus injuries heal on their own, and there are treatments available that can help restore function even in more severe cases.
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Brachial Plexus Injury Symptoms
Knowing brachial plexus injury symptoms can make it easier to identify when you might have injured your brachial plexus nerves, and when you need to seek treatment. Not all of these symptoms apply in all cases, but knowing which symptoms are most common is a good start.
- Feeling like an electric shock is running down your arm
- Stinging pain in arm and hand.
- A burning sensation in your arm and shoulder, especially radiating from your shoulder
- Muscle weakness in your arm and hand
- Numbness anywhere in your arm, shoulder, and hand
- Lack of movement in your hand or arm (including your shoulder)
- Severe pain through shoulder, arm, and hand
- Severe weakness or inability to move specific muscles in your shoulder, arm, and hand.
- Neck pain
In some severe cases, the brachial region on both sides of your body may be affected, causing nerve pain in both arms and shoulders. A Brachial plexus nerve injury can also feel like nerve damage in your arm, and it’s also possible to have injuries and pain starting from lower in your arm.
However, most often the pain originates with the nerves in your shoulder, and the nerves in your arm are experiencing sympathetic pain. For most people, if you experience burning pain from brachial palsy it will be a burning sensation in your upper arm or shoulder, though you can still get a burning sensation in your forearm.
Brachial Plexus Injury Causes
Brachial plexus injuries, also called erbs palsy, are relatively common. Most injuries aren’t severe and heal on their own without medical intervention. It’s only in severe cases, or when the brachial plexus injury happens as a newborn, that medical care is usually needed.
Brachialis function is incredibly important for your arm and hand, partially because your brachial anatomy is under a lot of stress. After all, your shoulder is a highly mobile joint surrounded by a lot of important and high-stress muscles.
Brachial plexopathy can also be caused by injuries during birth, especially during difficult births or births where the infant isn’t properly aligned in the birth canal.
Here are some of the most common causes of injuries in the brachial nerve plexus:
- Birth injuries
- Motor accidents
- Bike or ATV Accidents
- Sports accidents
- Radiation therapy
- Other falls and injuries
- Lacerations or deep-tissue damage
Any situation that stresses your shoulder and neck can put you at risk of brachial plexus birth injuries. However, many people may never seek treatment from a medical professional since the symptoms can be mild and recovery relatively fast in mild cases.
Brachial plexus injuries can also be a secondary injury in addition to other damage to your arm and shoulder. That means it’s important to seek treatment anytime you have a significant shoulder or arm injury to help make sure nerve damage and injuries aren’t an additional problem. Especially if you have any loss of movement or feeling in your arm, your nerves might be involved.
Brachial Plexus Injury Treatment
Brachial plexus injury treatment can be relatively intensive, or as simple as some medicine to take the pain away for the severe brachial plexus injury. Typical brachial plexus treatment includes regular checkups while the injury is healing, which can take up to 2 years, along with exercises and stretches to help maintain musculature while the area heals.
Your doctor might have you perform a brachial plexus test to help confirm that the brachial nerves are the source of your symptoms before beginning treatments.
Even in newborns, the brachial plexus nerve is often able to heal largely on its own, in which case treatment is more focused on helping to heal, minimizing long-term effects from the injury, and monitoring your progress.
How Do Medical Professionals Treat Brachial Plexus Injuries, If They Don’t Heal on Their Own?
However, brachial plexopathy treatment can also include more intensive care like surgical repairs. In the most extreme cases of brachial plexus injury, specifical avulsions where the median nerve roots have detached, treatment might include nerve grafts to replace the function of the brachial plexus nerves.
If your injury requires surgery, you’ll be happy to know that the brachial plexus surgery success rate is high. Almost all patients undergoing surgery have at least some improvements of their symptoms, though rehabilitation often includes additional procedures and physical therapy to be effective. Patients who undergo nerve transplant surgeries can see as much as 90%-100% return of function.
Other surgical options might not offer as drastic a recovery, but they can be appealing because they offer faster recovery times. For instance, tendon grafts don’t provide as much long-term function in most cases, but surgical recovery time is just a few weeks before the patient can begin physical therapy.
In some cases, you might require surgery, but not a graft, in order to kick start your brachial injury recovery.
No matter what treatment type your medical professional recommends, it’s important to do your brachial injury exercises and stretches as instructed. Those stretches and exercises are one of the bet ways to ensure you don’t lose significant function and maintain your strength and range of motion.
Some stretches and exercises may even work to help reduce the pain from your injuries.
Brachial Plexus Injury Lawyers
If your newborn suffered a brachial plexus injury during birth, even if they have good options for treatment and recovery, you should contact a birth injury lawyer that specializes in medical malpractice. Birth injuries are serious, and treatments can be complicated by the fact that it’s a newborn who needs treatment. That means bills can add up fast.
A qualified personal injury lawyer can help you recover some of those costs, and you may even be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering, and any loss of function suffered by your newborn.
Experienced Brachial Plexus Law Firm
Duffy & Duffy have a qualified team of medical malpractice attorneys that can help support you when you’re deciding if you want to start a personal injury suit and can answer any questions you have along the way. They’re some of the top injury lawyers in Long Island, and Duffy & Duffy have the New York birth injury lawyer you want to represent your case.
Getting financial compensation is one way to help support the care your newborn may need with a brachial plexus injury, even if the injury was relatively mild. Nerve injuries often have long recovery and treatment times, and that means that newborns might need ongoing treatment while they are infants and toddlers.
Don’t wait until you’re struggling with the costs of pediatric brachial injury care before you contact an injury attorney. The sooner you contact an attorney the easier it will be to get adequate compensation and the sooner you can get back to enjoying this precious time with your newborn.
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Final Thoughts On Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries
Brachial plexus injuries are serious, no matter when they happened in life. While most heal without further medical intervention, the worst injuries can lead to long recovery times and expensive treatments.
If you’ve suffered a brachial plexus injury due to someone else’s negligence or malice it may be a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney for help. Having a personal injury attorney can help you get compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, medical expenses, and the expenses from any loss of work or loss of working capacity.
Duffy & Duffy Experienced Birth Injury Lawyers
Brachial plexus injuries can happen anywhere and at any time. Thankfully, treatments are available that can help you heal and recover. Call the experienced birth injury attorneys at Duffy & Duffy.