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 loss of sensation and strength after a stinger in sports, will usually return to normal in a short period of time. These injuries should be evaluated by an ATC or a physician. An athlete should never return to sport without being evaluated properly. Repetitive injuries should also be monitored. Numerous stingers or burners can be accumulative in nature and can cause a more significant injury.
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 vary, 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 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 find out more about these injuries please go to: https://www.joionline.net/trending/content/stingers-and-burners
JOI has several orthopaedic shoulder specialists who can evaluate you if you have a brachial plexus injury. Please call JOI-2000, schedule online or follow the link below. JOI is where the pros and you can go!