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Brachial Neuritis

Plexitis Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Brachial Neuritis is rooted in nerve damage and can cause pain and muscle
weakness predominantly in the upper arm or shoulder.  


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What is Brachial Neuritis?

Brachial neuritis is peripheral nerve damage affecting the chest, shoulder, arm, and hand. The condition is also known as brachial neuropathy or brachial plexus injury.

Acute brachial neuritis occurs from nerve damage, which disrupts the transmission of signals between the affected regions and the central nervous system. Primarily, it targets the lower nerves of the brachial plexus in the arm and hand, often appearing on just one side of the body. However, in some cases, it can influence other nerves and body parts. What distinguishes acute brachial neuritis is its sudden onset, with no clear connection to prior injuries or health issues. Some individuals might experience similar symptoms due to other injuries affecting the brachial plexus.

The issue's core is the nerve damage that obstructs signals' relay to and from the spinal cord, leading to pain or loss of function, weakness, and sensations like tingling or burning. Current research suggests acute brachial neuritis could develop after an injury or infection, but its exact origin remains a topic of ongoing study. It's vital for individuals exhibiting symptoms to promptly consult a healthcare provider to address and manage this condition effectively.


Hear Cheryl's Vaccine Injury Story

Cheryl suffered SIRVA (shoulder injury related to vaccine administration) following a flu shot. Her vaccine injury claim was filed in the VICP by vaccine lawyer Max Muller where she obtained a large cash settlement for her pain and suffering, lost wages and out of pocket medical expenses.

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What are the symptoms of Brachial Plexus injury?

Brachial neuritis results from nerve damage in the brachial plexus, a network of nerves extending from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. 

While the exact cause remains uncertain, it's believed that it may develop following an injury, infection, or immunological response. Brachial Neuritis predominantly affects one side of the body and significantly impacts the quality of life. However, with timely intervention and treatments such as physical therapy, many patients see their symptoms improve over time. Recognizing the symptoms of brachial neuritis early on can be pivotal for effective management and intervention. Here are the main symptoms of brachial neuritis:

  • Severe Pain: Patients frequently report severe upper arm or shoulder pain. Pain might begin in the shoulder or neck, radiating down the arms or even spreading into the chest. Remarkably, this discomfort predominantly affects one side of the body.
  • Transition to Muscle Weakness: After the initial pain, there's a notable change where the affected individual may experience muscle weakness from shoulder or arm symptoms, limpness, or, in severe cases, paralysis in the affected arm or shoulder. Transition to muscle weakness can occur within a few hours or might take a few days.
  • Lack of Muscle Control: One of the defining signs of brachial neuritis is the lack of muscle control. Patients might struggle with proper muscle coordination, particularly in the shoulder or arm, making routine tasks challenging.
  • Sensory Abnormalities: Alongside pain and muscle symptoms, individuals might experience numbness, tingling, or a complete lack of sensation in the arm, shoulder, or chest area.
  • Duration of Symptoms: Recovery times vary, but it's important to understand that the symptoms of brachial neuritis can persist. Generally, they take several months to even a few years to subside fully.

Awareness of these symptoms helps individuals seek timely professional advice and intervention, which is key to better outcomes.

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What causes Brachial Neuritis?

The etiology of brachial neuritis remains a subject of ongoing medical research. 

The etiology of brachial neuritis remains a subject of ongoing medical research. While its exact cause is currently unknown, several risk factors and triggers have been identified:

  • Spontaneity and Environmental Triggers: Many cases of brachial neuritis seem to occur spontaneously. However, certain environmental factors, such as injuries or illnesses, have been identified as potential triggers.
  • Genetics: Some forms of brachial neuritis are genetic. For instance, hereditary neuralgic amyotrophy is genetically inherited and is activated by external factors like injuries or illnesses.
  • Recent Infections: A significant percentage of brachial neuritis cases (25-55%) occur following an infection, with upper respiratory infections being a frequent trigger.
  • Age: There appears to be a dual age distribution for the onset of brachial neuritis symptoms, with data showing individuals in their 20s and then again in their 60s more likely to suffer from brachial neuritis.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Although rare, certain confirmed brachial neuritis cases have demonstrated a link to autoimmune disorders like Rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The hypothesis is the immune system mistakenly targets the protective covering of nerves.
  • Sex: Males tend to be more susceptible, though the exact male-to-female prevalence ratios vary across studies.
  • Other Causes:
    • Pregnancy: Some women might develop symptoms during or after pregnancy.
    • Strenuous Exercise: Overexertion or trauma from specific activities can be risk factors.
    • Birth Injuries: Babies may experience brachial neuritis due to injuries sustained during birth.
    • Vaccine Administration Errors: Incorrect vaccine administration methods, such as injections given too high on the shoulder or too deep into the arm, can result in brachial neuritis.

It's important to note that while these autoimmune disorders have been associated with brachial neuritis in some cases, having one of these conditions doesn't necessarily mean an individual will develop brachial neuritis. Additionally, brachial neuritis also occurs in individuals without any of these autoimmune conditions. Individual medical evaluation is highly recommended for accurate diagnosis and understanding.

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How is Acute Brachial Neuritis diagnosed?

Brachial neuritis, identified by symptoms such as pain in the chest, shoulder, upper back, and upper arm, is a distressing and perplexing condition. When you experience these symptoms, you must consult a doctor to get a clear diagnosis. Here are the steps usually taken in diagnosing acute brachial neuritis:

  1. Initial Consultation: The diagnostic process typically begins with a comprehensive discussion where the healthcare provider inquires about the nature and duration of your symptoms. They'll explore your medical history, emphasizing recent events like injuries, illnesses, and vaccinations, as these can sometimes be related to the onset of acute brachial neuritis.
  2. Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Studies: Diagnostic tests such as electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies might be required to determine the specific type and extent of nerve damage. The muscles' electrical activity and nerve signal transmission speed are tested to determine the potential damage's extent.
  3. Additional Tests: In instances where the diagnosis remains uncertain or if other medical conditions are suspected to coexist, further tests may be prescribed:
  • Blood Tests: These detect signs of infections, inflammatory markers, or evidence of autoimmune disorders that might be linked to the symptoms.
  • X-rays: X-rays offer a clear view of the bone structure and are instrumental in ruling out issues related to bones and joints that might be causing the pain.
  • Imaging Scans: Advanced imaging scans like CT (Computed Tomography) or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) are beneficial in obtaining detailed images of muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues. Imaging scans help identify any anomalies or issues beyond nerve damage that could contribute to the symptoms.

Healthcare providers can better diagnose acute brachial neuritis through the diagnostic approaches above and begin appropriate treatment to alleviate the symptoms and aid recovery.

What is the Prognosis for Brachial Neuritis?

Brachial neuritis, while discomforting and disruptive, often has a silver lining: it usually resolves independently without progressing into other illnesses or causing serious long-term complications. 

The journey towards full recovery can be lengthy and might demand significant patience. The time frame for recovery typically spans between 1 to 3 years, contingent on the individual's overall health and the severity of the condition.

One of the pivotal challenges posed by this condition is managing its symptoms. While pain from neuritis is generally treatable and can be alleviated with appropriate interventions, muscle weakness tends to be a bigger challenge. Muscle weakness hinders movement, increasing susceptibility to further arm and shoulder injuries.

Daily life with brachial plexus injury may require some lifestyle adjustments. Adapting daily activities and routines can go a long way in ensuring safety and promoting healing. For instance, routine tasks now demand more caution or alternative approaches. 

Moreover, individuals might look for accommodations in professional or academic environments due to persistent muscle weakness and to avoid potential problems. Such changes ensure you can continue your work or studies without exacerbating your symptoms or jeopardizing your recovery.


How is Brachial Neuritis treated?

Brachial Neuritis often bears a reassuring aspect: a natural course of healing typically ending in a full recovery over time. 

Medical science has yet to pinpoint a definitive treatment addressing the root causes of brachial neuritis. Nonetheless, patients usually find comfort that the condition tends to self-resolve, spanning a recovery timeframe ranging from a few months to sometimes a couple of years. Treatments designed for brachial plexus injuries predominantly center on two main objectives: managing the severe pain experienced in the shoulder or arm and addressing the consequential muscle weakness. Here are the common ways to manage muscle weakness and pain:

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is an integral part of the treatment plan. With the guidance of a physical therapist, patients do exercises and routines designed to preserve the range of motion in the affected arm.
  • Medication: Over-the-counter Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are frequently used to reduce pain. For more pronounced symptoms, corticosteroids may be prescribed by a healthcare provider to reduce inflammation.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): Using electrical impulses to stimulate the nerves is a viable strategy to lessen pain.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Embracing a routine that incorporates regular exercise is beneficial. Additionally, relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, are instrumental in dealing with the emotional and physical symptoms. Cold therapy, which involves the application of cold packs, is also beneficial for symptom relief.
  • Surgical Intervention: Early surgery is usually recommended in cases where brachial plexus injury has been triggered due to an injury, especially concerning the brachial plexus region. Repairing the nerves helps combat the potential for enduring nerve damage.

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What are some complications of Brachial Neuritis?

Nonetheless, the trajectory of recovery and the potential for complications vary based on various factors. Here are some potential complications that might emerge:

Chronic Pain and Numbness: One of the lingering after-effects of nerve damage can be persistent pain or numbness. Persistent pain poses considerable risks, especially when injuries like burns go unnoticed due to reduced sensation.

Muscle Atrophy: As nerves take their time to regrow, the muscles they once serviced might start deteriorating from lack of use, leading to muscle atrophy.

Stiff Joints and Paralysis: Even if individuals regain use of their limbs, stiff joints or paralysis in the hand or arm are significant hurdles, hindering smooth movement.

Joint Position Alterations: Complications might arise from shifts in the position of the joints, escalating risks for conditions like

Subluxation: Partial dislocation of a joint.

Impingement: When soft tissues are squeezed between bones.

Adhesive Capsulitis: Also known as "frozen shoulder," is an example of Shoulder Injury related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA). SIRVA severely restricts shoulder movement due to the tightening of the shoulder capsule.

Daily Task Interference: Persistent pain in the muscles makes performing mundane tasks, like lifting objects or reaching for items, more challenging.

While most individuals recover from brachial plexus injury with few lasting effects, it's important to remain aware of potential complications to address them quickly and ensure the best possible recovery.


When should I talk to a doctor?

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden, severe pain in the arm, shoulder, or back, especially if accompanied by pressure, fullness, or squeezing sensations in your chest. After an injury or vaccine injection, consult a healthcare provider if you notice:

  • Severe pain in the upper arm or shoulder.
  • Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness.
  • Symptoms that persist or worsen over time.
  • Symptoms that disrupt daily activities.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to effectively managing symptoms and preventing potential complications. Proper treatment of a flu vaccine injury largely depends upon the type of injury. Below are treatment options for some of the most common flu shot injuries.

When should I talk to a lawyer?

You must consult a vaccine injury lawyer immediately if you receive a brachial plexus injury diagnosis potentially linked to a vaccination. 

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) outlines specific guidelines, including presumed causation for vaccine-related injuries within designated timelines. You typically have up to three years from the onset of symptoms to file for non-fatal vaccine-related issues. An experienced vaccine injury lawyer will help with the specifics of the Vaccine Court and ensure that your medical documentation aligns with VICP requirements, often without requiring additional proof.

Starting the compensation process early with a knowledgeable legal expert enhances the likelihood of achieving prompt financial recovery. As the VICP claims can be challenging, early action is beneficial. To optimize your chances of recovery under the VICP, it's important to meticulously document all relevant expenses, from medical costs to income loss and personal suffering. Collaborating closely with your vaccine injury lawyer ensures that every aspect of your case is well-prepared and presented.

What are some support and resources for people with Brachial Neuritis?

  • Physical Therapy: Helps maintain or improve range of motion and bolster muscle strength. The University of Michigan has an excellent list of ideas for What you can do at home to help your recovery.
  • Pain Management Clinics: Provide therapeutic options such as corticosteroid injections or nerve blocks.
  • Occupational Therapy: Assists individuals in adapting to alternative ways of executing daily tasks.
  • Educational Material: "The Peripheral Neuropathy Solution" by Dr. Randall C. Labrum: This book looks into the causes, symptoms, and treatments of peripheral neuropathies, including brachial neuritis.
    You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman: A guide on using mindfulness to cope with chronic pain.
  • Online Forums: Find community support through dedicated websites and social media platforms like National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). They have a range of publications and online resources about neurological conditions, including peripheral neuropathies.
  • Support Groups: Whether local or digital, these groups offer emotional backing and invaluable advice.
  • Mental Health Support: Engage with psychologists or counselors to navigate the emotional challenges of enduring chronic pain.
  • Family and Friends: Keep them in the loop to establish a robust support network.
  • Financial Aid: Explore opportunities like disability benefits, grants for necessary medical equipment, or vaccine injury compensation where applicable.

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