The brachial plexus is a complex network of interwoven nerves responsible for regulating both the movement and sensation in the arm and hand. A traumatic injury to the brachial plexus refers to sudden damage to these nerves, which can result in symptoms such as weakness, numbness, or impaired mobility in the shoulder, arm, or hand.
Originating from the neck and traversing through the upper chest to the armpit, the brachial plexus is vulnerable to injury when the arm experiences forceful pulling or stretching.
How does the Brachial Plexus work?
The plexus is composed of five nerves that originate in the neck’s spinal cord. This intricate network connects these nerves with those responsible for skin sensation and muscle movement in the arm and hand. Importantly, there is a brachial plexus on both sides of the body.
Each of these five nerves within the brachial plexus serves a specific purpose, such as powering muscles or transmitting sensory signals from the hand to the brain. Consequently, the location of a nerve injury within the plexus holds significance for predicting outcomes and planning appropriate treatment.
The plexus can be divided into five anatomical sections, and injuries to this structure can occur in one or more of these areas:
- Spinal nerves
What Causes A Brachial Plexus?
The majority of traumatic plexus injuries occur due to the forceful pulling or stretching of the arm. Various events can lead to this type of injury, including falls, motor vehicle accidents, knife and gunshot wounds, and most frequently, motorcycle collisions.
Symptoms can vary based on the type and location of the plexus injury, as well as the presence of other injuries in the patient. The most common symptoms associated with brachial plexus injuries include:
- Weakness or numbness
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of movement (paralysis)
The pain resulting from brachial plexus injuries stems from the damage to the spinal cord, where the nerve rootlets are pulled out of the cord. This pain is of a neuropathic nature and can be extremely challenging to manage, often persisting for an extended period.
Brachial plexus injuries occurring closer to the spinal cord tend to cause more intense pain compared to injuries farther away from it. Additionally, injuries nearer the spinal cord may lead to a burning numbness, which is medically termed paresthesias or dysesthesias.
When you visit our practice at Attuned Vitality Chiropractic and Wellness, you can expect comprehensive care from our dedicated team. Dr. Wendy Bracken will conduct a thorough patient evaluation to assess your condition and work towards optimizing the function of your joints and muscles. This is particularly important in cases where a torn Brachial Plexus is involved, as muscles that go unused for an extended period (typically within 6 to 7 months after injury) are less likely to regain normal function in the future, even if nerve signals eventually recover.
Following your evaluation with Dr. Wendy, she will determine if you would benefit from an appointment with our Functional Neurologist, Dr. Funk. Dr. Funk will perform a comprehensive evaluation and conduct simple tests to assess your balance, eye movement, and ensure that your body is responding as expected. This collaborative approach aims to provide you with the best possible care and support for your specific needs.