Brachial Plexus

By Andrew Heideman, PT/ATC

The Brachial Plexus

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves in the arm or shoulder of your body.  The group or plexus of nerves is responsible for sending impulses or signals from the shoulder, elbow, and hand back to the spinal cord.  An injury to this plexus can occur when this area is over-stretched or contused.  This can occur in sports and is often referred to as a stinger or burner.

The anatomy of the brachial plexus.

The anatomy of the brachial plexus.

The loss of sensation and strength after a stinger in sports will usually return to normal in a short period of time.  An ATC or a physician will evaluate the injury.  An athlete should never return to sport without being evaluated properly.  Monitoring of repetitive injuries is important.  Numerous stingers or burners can be accumulative in nature and can cause a more significant injury.

image of football player holding football

Football is a sport where Brachial Plexus Injuries are common.

Minor BP injuries, known as stingers or burners, are common in contact sports, such as football. Babies sometimes sustain brachial plexus injuries during birth. Other conditions, such as inflammation or tumors or complete tears from trauma can occur to this plexus. The severity of BP injuries varies, depending on the parts of the nerve that is inured. In some instances, feeling and function return to normal, while other injuries may have lifelong disabilities.

What are the Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries?

Less Severe BP injury symptoms include:

  • Feeling like an electric shock sensation down your arm
  • Numbness in your arm
  • Weakness in your am

More Severe BP Injury symptoms include:

  • Severe pain
  • Complete lack of movement and feeling in your shoulder, arm, and hand
  • Weakness and inability to use certain muscles in shoulder, arm, or hand

How are BP Injuries Diagnosed?

JOI physicians will examine your injury and order diagnostic testing to include:

  • X-Ray of neck and shoulder
  • MRI or CT scan
  • Nerve conduction survey

To monitor your progress, these tests may be repeated every few weeks. In mild cases, BP injuries respond well to non-surgical treatments such as:

  • Physical therapy to learn safe exercises that may help restore function in the shoulders, arms, and hands
  • Corticosteroid injections that will help manage pain during the healing process
  • Assistive devices such as splints, braces, and compression sleeves
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatories
  • Occupational therapy to work on regaining everyday skills such as dressing and grasping

To schedule physical therapy at JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045

To find out more about these injuries please go to stingers-and-burners

JOI has several orthopaedic shoulder specialists who can evaluate you if you have a brachial plexus injury.  Please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or follow the link below.  JOI is where the pros and you can go!

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