The brachial plexus is a collection of nerves, one on each side of the body, that help to provide sensation to the shoulders, the arms, the hands, and the chest. Damage to this area, which can occur in many ways, may create a condition called brachial neuritis, which typically affects the shoulders most and is most likely to affect men. It is very difficult to ignore this condition, given the extreme discomfort it creates when it first appears.
Symptoms of brachial neuritis include an onset of pain in the shoulder, usually on one side only. This pain may be observable with other symptoms like loss of reflexes or impaired range of shoulder motion. In complicated cases, since this illness can exist for a long time period, other parts of the brachial plexus fail to supply appropriate impulses to the arms or to the chest, and though rare, breathing may become affected with this failure.
People who have this condition should see a medical professional to get a diagnosis, but the cause isn’t always easy to determine. Healthcare professionals evaluate symptoms and, if they suspect brachial neuritis, they still may not have an answer as to cause. There are many problems that can lead to this disease, including a genetic form of the illness. Other potential risk factors include having certain autoimmune illnesses; being recently sick with bacterial, viral or fungal infection; or getting immunizations. Alternately, some tumors may cause these symptoms.
Treating this problem must then be a twofold endeavor. First, pain management is needed and, depending on pain tolerance, patients might be helped by over-the-counter medicines or require opiates. Any underlying illness present may need treatment. Autoimmune diseases could fall into this category, as could lingering bacterial or parasitic infections. Even once the pain is treated, the discomfort can last for a long time period, frequently up to two years.
Medical professionals usually highly recommend physical therapy to preserve range of motion in the shoulder and prevent muscle wasting. In rare instances, these steps are not enough, or breathing is affected, so healthcare providers might consider more aggressive measures of treatment at this point, including surgery to change the way the brachial plexus sends and receives nerve responses. Surgery is generally considered only when other treatment is not effective.
Many people who have brachial neuritis make a full recovery. This is less likely if the condition occurs simultaneously, affecting each brachial plexus, which is fairly rare. In general, the condition, though perhaps not its cause, is fairly easy to diagnose because of its sudden and fairly alarming and uncomfortable onset. Fortunately, the disease itself has a low occurrence rate, though a person who thinks that he or she may have it should consult with a medical professional right away.