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Brachial Neuritis

Brachial Neuritis

Brachial neuritis is a term which refers to the inflammation of the nerves of the brachial plexus. This condition can be caused by several factors and it can produce a number of symptoms, which are discussed in this HealthHearty article.
HealthHearty Staff
Physiotherapist Exercising With Patient
Brachial plexus is basically a collection of nerves located on each side of the body, and is concerned with transmitting signals from the brain to the shoulders, chest, and arms. So, any kind of damage and injury to this area can result in inflammation of the nerves of the brachial plexus, a condition which is termed as brachial neuritis, brachial neuropathy, 'Parsonage-Turner syndrome' and neuralgic amyotrophy. The condition most commonly manifests itself in a sharp and constant pain, along with numbness in the shoulder, neck and the arms on either one or both the sides of the body. This condition can be bilateral and unilateral, and accordingly, it can affect either both sides of the body or only one side.
Causes of Brachial Neuritis
There can be numerous causes of this condition. One form of the disorder is suspected to be caused by an autoimmune reaction, where the body's own immune system attacks and damages the nerves of the brachial plexus. Another form of brachial plexus neuropathy, which is quite rare is also suspected to be a hereditary condition. Idiopathic brachial neuritis on the other hand, can occur without any apparent reason or cause.

Certain factors have been found to increase the risk for this condition and therefore, considered as the risk factors for the disease. Some of the common risk factors for this condition are, autoimmune diseases, bacterial, viral or fungal infection, development of tumors that can put pressure on the nerves, fever followed by an infection, getting immunizations, injections of serum, surgery, and Lyme disease. Apart from these, any kind of traumatic injury to the nerves of the brachial plexus, such as, fall from a great height, can also cause brachial neuropathy.
Symptoms of Brachial Neuritis
The most common symptom is the sudden onset of shoulder pain and weakness, which can gradually radiate to the neck, arms, and sometimes to the hands. The pain can be quite intense, especially around the shoulder girdle. Pain and weakness can develop either simultaneously, or weakness can follow pain after several days or weeks. The pain can get aggravated by any kind of movement of the arms. Along with pain and weakness, one can get muscle aches, and numbness in the shoulder and arms. The condition has also been found to cause atrophy and paralysis of muscles of the affected area. Usually, a person can recover from this condition within a few months with appropriate treatment. However, in a few cases, the symptoms of the condition can persist for years.
Treatment of Brachial Neuritis
The treatment usually involves pain management, as well as physical therapy to restore the range of motion of the shoulder(s). Depending on the intensity of pain, over the counter medications, prescription analgesics or pain killers, as well as narcotic pain relievers can be required to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with brachial plexus. Usually, common analgesics can manage the pain caused by this condition, though some people might need to take narcotic pain relievers. Pain management is often followed by the treatment of the underlying causes. As this condition can be caused by a range of factors, its treatment depends on the identification of the exact causes.

Physical therapy can play a very important role in the treatment of brachial neuropathy. Certain exercises can strengthen the muscles, and preserve the range of motions of the affected shoulder. But, if the condition causes significant weakening of the deltoid muscle of the shoulder, then it may become necessary to put the arm in a sling, in order to avoid dislocation of the shoulder. Surgery is usually the last treatment option for brachial neuropathy, which can be required, if the condition is too severe and the body does not respond to all other treatment options.
The recovery from brachial neuritis is a slow and gradual process. Sometimes, complete recovery can take a lot of time. But, in general, one can expect significant relief from the pain and weakness within a couple of months. Usually, the recovery from the condition is complete, with prompt treatment. Therefore, on observing any of these symptoms, one should consider taking the help of his or her physician, in order to ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of this disorder.