Brachial plexus injury


Brachial plexus injury happens when the nerves in the brachial plexus are compressed, stretched, or in some severe cases ,pulled away from the spinal cord. The injury may cause pain, muscle weakness, loss of sensation, or loss of mobility in the shoulder, arm, and/or hand.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control movement and sensation. These nerves deliver impulses from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Each of the nerves in the brachial plexus has a distinct purpose, such as activating muscles or transporting sensory information from the hand to the brain.

The most serious brachial plexus injuries are frequently caused by high-speed motor vehicle accidents. It can result in paralysis of the arm. In contact sports, such as football, mild brachial plexus injuries, known as stingers or burners, are prevalent. Babies might also incur brachial plexus damage while in the uterus or during delivery. Other disorders that might affect the brachial plexus include inflammation and tumors.

Since each nerve in the brachial plexus serves a particular purpose, the location and kind of nerve injury within the plexus influences the symptoms and the type of treatment. Some may heal on its own, while more severe injuries might necessitate surgery.


The symptoms of a brachial plexus injury may differ according to the which nerves are affected, as well as the type and area of the injury. Common brachial plexus injuries occur due to forceful trauma, injuries at birth, tumors, and inflammation.

  • Minor injuries: Certain trauma can damage the brachial plexus such as collisions in contact sports. These minor injuries, called burners or stingers, are often incurred in activities like football or wrestling.

The symptoms normally last only a few seconds or minutes, although some might endure it for days or longer. These symptoms are:

    • An electric shock or a scorching feeling spreading down the arm
    • A lack of feeling (numbness) or weakness in your arm or hand
  • Severe injuries: Extreme brachial plexus damage brought on by traumatic events such as high-speed car accidents can tear the nerve root from the spinal cord. This significantly damages, tears, or destroys the nerves. As a result, the person may experience:
    • Certain muscles in the hand, arm, or shoulder are weak or unable to be used.
    • Total immobility and loss of sensation throughout the arm, including the shoulder and hand
    • Intense pain in the arm, hand, or wrist

It is recommended to consult a healthcare provider if any of the symptoms persists, particularly if there is a neck pain, symptom in both arms, weakening or numbness of hand or arm, or having recurrent burners and stingers.

Minor brachial plexus injuries may still require medical attention. If left untreated, it can result in lasting paralysis or impairment. Therefore, it is important to have the injuries checked for proper diagnosis and immediate treatment.


The brachial plexus runs from the neck to the upper chest and ends at the armpit. This network of nerves is frequently injured when the arm is forcibly pulled or stretched, or when the head and neck are violently dragged away from the shoulder.

Brachial plexus injuries can be caused by:

  • Contact sports: It is a common injury in contact-sport athletes such as football players. When the nerves in the brachial plexus are pulled past their limits after collisions with other players, burners or stingers occurs. These are considered minor brachial plexus injuries.
  • Difficult births: Infants may suffer brachial plexus injuries as a result of uterine compression or after a difficult delivery. This is known as neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP). The injury may be due to several circumstances such as putting pressure on the baby’s raised arms during a breech (feet-first) delivery, or when the infant’s shoulders become stuck within the birth canal. Erb’s palsy is a result when the upper group of nerves were damaged.
  • Forceful trauma: Brachial plexus injuries can occur as a result of a number of events, including car accidents and motorbike accidents. Vehicle accidents cause approximately 70% of traumatic brachial plexus injuries, with motorcycles or bicycles accounting for 70%. Injuries can also happen due to penetrating injuries, such as a gunshot wound or a knife wound, falls, or direct, violent punches.
  • Treatments for tumors and cancer: Radiation therapy to the chest or neck may cause tumors to develop in or along the brachial plexus, putting pressure on the plexus, or it may spread to the nerves. The brachial plexus may be harmed by radiation therapy for the chest.

Risk factors

The risk for brachial plexus injuries is notably higher to people involved in high-speed car accidents, or people playing football, wrestling, and other contact sports.

Babies who are breech birth, larger-than-average size, or with obese parent are also more susceptible to brachial plexus injury or newborn brachial plexus palsy (NBPP).