A brachial plexus injury is sometimes overlooked after a car accident. It may be because the doctor thinks the pain is caused by a disc in the cervical spine or a shoulder injury. In order to know if you have a brachial plexus injury after a crash, you first have to know what it is and understand its symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulder, arm and hand. An injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or in the most serious cases, ripped apart or torn away from the spinal cord. Minor brachial plexus injuries can occur during contact sports. These are often referred to as stingers or burners. More severe brachial plexus injuries usually result from auto or motorcycle accidents.
The injury can occur when your shoulder is forced down while your neck stretches up and away from the injured shoulder. In a car accident, the seat belt restraint can replicate these movements.
Signs and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury will vary on the person and the severity of the injury. Symptoms can include:
• A feeling like an electric shock or a burning sensation shooting down your arm
• Numbness and weakness in your arm
• More serious brachial plexus injuries can have symptoms of weakness or inability to use certain muscles in your hand, arm or shoulder or complete lack of movement and feeling in your arm, including your shoulder and hand
• Severe pain
These types of injuries can cause permanent weakness or disability so it is important that you discuss these symptoms with a doctor who understands the mechanisms of this type of injury.
How To Diagnose a Brachial Plexus Injury
The Mayo Clinic provides the following ways to diagnose a brachial plexus injury. These include:
• Electromyography (EMG).
• Nerve conduction studies.
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
• Computerized tomography (CT) myelography.
Treatment varies on the extent of symptoms and the length of time since the injury. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to keep your joints and muscles working properly, maintain range of motion, and prevent stiff joints. Surgery may also be needed to repair brachial plexus nerves. However, surgery should take place within six to seven months after the injury because surgeries that occur later than that have lower success rates.
If you experience arm pain after an accident, talk to your doctor about the possibility of a brachial plexus injury. It is better to rule it out early than to wait to see.
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