Brachial neuritis is an inflammation of the brachial plexus. Brachial plexus innervates all the structures in the arm except for the trapesius muscle and a specific area of the skin near the axilla. Inflammation can be caused by several factors and the patient may complain about specific symptoms. The most common symptoms include permanent pain and numbness of a shoulder, neck, or the arms. The inflammation can affect one or both arms.
Causes of Brachial Neuritis
There is a variety of causes which may lead to brachial neuritis. In some patients it may be caused by autoimmune reaction. The body may not be able to recognize the nerve cells of the plexus as normal and start to produce antibodies which attack brachial nerves. Apart from autoimmune response, brachial neuritis may be also hereditary. Injury in the shoulder area can be another cause of brachial neuritis. And if there is no obvious cause of neuritis it can be classified as idiopathic.
There are certain factors which can contribute to the disease. They include autoimmune diseases, infections (bacterial, viral and fungal), immunization, and injection of serum, surgical procedures and Lyme disease. In all the previously mentioned cases the risk for brachial neuritis drastically increases.
Symptoms of Brachial Neuritis
The leading symptom is unexpected pain in the shoulder. The pain can be rather severe and it commonly intensifies with movements. The affected arm is weak, and the weakness slowly affects shoulder, upper arm and may even spread to the fingers. In some patients pain and weakness occur at the same time while in other the first symptom is pain and the weakness occurs after a few days. Additional symptom is numbness which does not have to affect all the patients. In extreme cases patients develop atrophy of the affected muscles due to complete paralysis. Some of the symptoms may withdraw and some of them may linger for years.
Treatment for Brachial Neuritis
The goal of the treatment is to take care of the pain and to restore the movements of the affected arm. Physical therapy is essential and it helps with strengthening of the muscles and gradual re-establishment of the movements. If the muscles are way too weak the patients need to wear a sling which will prevent dislocation of the shoulder. Apart from that it is essential to treat the underlying cause of the neuritis.
The pain in brachial neuritis can be alleviated by a variety of painkillers. Some of them are available over-the-counter and others can be prescribed only by the doctor. In extreme pain only narcotics can be effective in elimination of pain.
Surgery is not performed in all cases. Only patients whose symptoms have not been eliminated or alleviated by conservative treatment require surgery.