Brachial plexus is the network of intertwined nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulders, arms and hand. Brachial plexus controls movement and sensation in the shoulders and arms. The brachial plexus begins at the neck and crosses the upper chest to the armpit. When these nerves are stretched, compressed or in the worse case, ripped apart or torn away from the spinal cord, brachial plexus injury occurs. Generally this happens when the arm is forcibly pulled or stretched, especially in a contact sport or motor vehicle accident. Due to the brachial plexus injury, you may feel weakness, loss of feeling, or loss of movement in the shoulder, arm or hand.
Minor brachial plexus injuries, known as stingers and burners, are common in contact sports, such as wrestling and football. Ironically, a newborn can also sustain brachial plexus injury during birth.This injury may result in incomplete sensory and/or motor function of the involved arm. Conditions, such as inflammation and tumors may also affect the brachial plexus. Severe brachial plexus injuries generally happen as a result of auto or motorcycle accidents, collision or gunshot wounds. A severe injury can cause complete paralysis of the arm with loss of function and sensation. If the injury is not severe, it may heal without any specific treatment. The nature of the injury varies in severity from a mild stretch to the nerve root tearing away from the spinal cord.
Types of brachial plexus injury:
The condition of the brachial plexus injury varies depending upon the type of injury and amount of force placed on plexus. The same patient may have injuries of varying degrees in different nerves of the brachial plexus.
Avulsion: This is the most severe form of brachial plexus injury where the nerve root is completely torn from the spinal cord.
Neuropraxia (Stretch): In this case, the nerve is stretched mildly and in many cases, these injuries heal on their own.
Rupture: The brachial plexus may tear partially or fully if the stretch if forceful.
Signs and symptoms of brachial plexus injury:
Signs and symptoms of the brachial plexus injury depend on the severity and location of the injury. Generally, only one arm is affected. Paralysis and weakness of the affected side depend on which nerve is damaged. The likelihood of getting a brachial plexus injury is high while playing contact sports in which the brachial plexus nerves get stretched or compressed. Minor brachial plexus injury can produce symptoms such as an electric shock or a burning sensation shooting down your arm or numbness and weakness in your affected shoulder or arm. These symptoms only last a few seconds or minutes, however in some people these symptoms may stay for a long time.
In the case of more severe injuries, brachial plexus nerves are either torn or ruptured. If the injury is more-severe, it will lead to the nerve root completely tearing from the spinal cord. Signs and symptoms of severe brachial plexus injury can include certain muscles in your arm or shoulder feeling weak and feeble, you cannot move your shoulder, arm and hand and you will feel severe pain.
Complications of brachial plexus injury:
Though most of the brachial plexus injury will heal without any lasting damage, some injuries can cause temporary or permanent problems such as:
Stiff joints: As a result of paralysis in the arm or shoulder, your joints can stiffen. This can impair your movement of the joints even after you have regained the use of your hand. Your doctor may recommend an ongoing physiotherapy as part of the treatment process to get rid of this offshoot disability.
Pain: This stems from nerve damage and it may be chronic.
Numbness: If there is no sensation of your arm or hand, you run the risk of burning or injuring it without knowing it.
Muscle atrophy: Regeneration of nerves takes place in a slow manner and it may take several years. During that time, the lack of movement of muscles in the affected arm may cause muscle degeneration.
Permanent disability:The degree of recovery from a brachial plexus injury depends on a number of factors like age, location, nature of the injury, severity etc. Some people may end up having permanent paralysis.
Treatment of Brachial Plexus Injury at Plexus:
Stem cell therapy at Plexus has helped to achieve desired results in minimum possible time. Along with this, intensive rehabilitation plays an important role. This includes physiotherapy that focuses on stimulating the affected nerves and muscles and regaining the lost range of movements. Occupational therapy comprises of precise motor re-learning and sensory re-education programmes along with functional training of the hand to perform daily life tasks. Hand splinting plays a significant role in regaining the flexibility and strength to perform daily activities. A resting hand splint and an extension outrigger splint are two common splints which are prescribed and customised for individuals with Brachial Plexus Injury. Apart from the daily exercise program, a customised home training programme is taught to the patient to carry forward the activities performed here.
At Plexus we have treated patients with complete and incomplete injuries and attained miraculous results. Injuries as old as 16 years have shown great improvement both in terms of sensation and movements.