What Is Brachial Plexopathy?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Brachial plexopathy often causes poor muscle control in the hand or arm.
Brachial plexopathy often causes poor muscle control in the hand or arm.

Brachial plexopathy is injury of the brachial plexus, an arrangement of nerve fibers leading from the spine, through the neck and armpit, and into the arm. The nerves of the brachial plexus carry nervous signals to the skin and muscles of the chest, shoulder, arm, and hand. Brachial plexus injury is usually caused by excessive stretching or tearing of the nerve fibers, and presents as impaired muscular control or sensation.

Brachial plexophathy can cause a loss of reflexes.
Brachial plexophathy can cause a loss of reflexes.

Brachial plexopathy is caused by physical trauma of some type. In adults, the most common causes are sports injuries, motorcycle or all terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents, falls, direct violence or gunshot wounds, or violent pulling on the arm. Infants can also suffer from brachial plexopathy, which sometime results from difficult childbirth or botched forceps delivery.

A difficult childbirth may cause infants to suffer from brachial plexopathy.
A difficult childbirth may cause infants to suffer from brachial plexopathy.

There are degrees of severity of the condition, as with any nerve damage. At its mildest, brachial plexus injury may be a temporary condition that can be treated simply through rest, and is completely reversible within months. Other types of injury may require occupational or physical therapy, and some require surgery. Sometimes, anticonvulsant drugs are prescribed to manage any nerve pain. In most cases of brachial plexopathy, the prognosis is good for full or near-full recovery.

A gel pack may help numb pain caused by a damaged brachial plexus.
A gel pack may help numb pain caused by a damaged brachial plexus.

Brachial plexopathy can present with muscular weakness or poor muscle control in the hand or arm. Other possible symptoms include impaired sensation, impaired reflexes, and paralysis of the arm or hand. Brachial plexus injury can cause Erb's palsy, in which the arm hangs limp by the side of the body, while the forearm is extended with the palm facing up. A person with Erb's palsy is unable to move his or her arm into any other position. Another disorder caused by some cases is Klumpke's paralysis, in which the muscles of the forearm and hand are paralyzed, usually causing a characteristic clawed hand in the patient.

Most babies who suffer from brachial plexopathy recover within six months.
Most babies who suffer from brachial plexopathy recover within six months.

Most infants suffering from brachial plexus injury recover or improve within six months. Those showing signs of recovery can usually be treated with range of motion exercises performed by their parents and regular examination by a physician. Infants who do not show recovery signs typically require surgery.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments

Frostrich

Yes, I second the sandalwood oil suggestion. I used it myself when I went through a brachial injury. I did the lotion method, and it did help me better manage the pain, especially at night when I couldn't seem to get comfortable enough to go to sleep.

However, I would also recommend that you burn lavender oil in an oil burner near your wife's bed. She'll inhale the lavender oil, which will almost immediately relax her and put her in a more joyous mood. Lavender also has antiseptic properties that she will receive internally through the inhalation process.

ShaneGang

Sandalwood oil is great for muscle-related pain. Get a good-quality sandalwood oil, dilute it with a bit of water, and rub it into the affected area several times per day.

You can also mix 1 part sandalwood oil with 3 parts olive oil or coconut oil to make your own homemade pain relieving lotion.

BouncingKiwi

My wife is experiencing brachial plexusopathy right now due to a sudden, strenuous move she made when she bent over to pick something up that had fallen. She is in a lot of pain.

The doctor has her on pain pills, muscle relaxers and bed rest. I also help her with alternating hot and cold packs throughout the day to give her some additional relief.

Anyone know of anything else I could do to help her get through this?

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    • Brachial plexopathy often causes poor muscle control in the hand or arm.
      Brachial plexopathy often causes poor muscle control in the hand or arm.
    • Brachial plexophathy can cause a loss of reflexes.
      Brachial plexophathy can cause a loss of reflexes.
    • A difficult childbirth may cause infants to suffer from brachial plexopathy.
      A difficult childbirth may cause infants to suffer from brachial plexopathy.
    • A gel pack may help numb pain caused by a damaged brachial plexus.
      A gel pack may help numb pain caused by a damaged brachial plexus.
    • Most babies who suffer from brachial plexopathy recover within six months.
      Most babies who suffer from brachial plexopathy recover within six months.
    • The brachial plexus nerves lead from the spine to the neck and then into the arm.
      The brachial plexus nerves lead from the spine to the neck and then into the arm.
    • The nerves of the brachial plexus carry nervous signals to the skin and muscles of the shoulder, arm, chest, and hand.
      The nerves of the brachial plexus carry nervous signals to the skin and muscles of the shoulder, arm, chest, and hand.
    • Some brachial plexus injuries may require physical therapy.
      Some brachial plexus injuries may require physical therapy.