What causes brachial plexus injury?

Brachial plexus injury can arise when the nerves of the brachial plexus are compressed, stretched or cut. Compression of the brachial plexus nerves may occur due to inflammation or a tumor pressing on the nerve. Stretching may occur as the result of the shoulder’s being forced apart from the head and neck. In more severe cases, nerves may become severed from the spinal cord, generally as a result of a serious injury or surgery.

Common causes of brachial plexus injury

Often, brachial plexus injury is mild, and may be caused by:

  • Brachial plexitis (inflammation of the brachial plexus for unknown cause)
  • Cyst (benign sac that contains fluid, air, or other materials)
  • Damage to the brachial plexus during birth
  • Infection in the shoulder, arm or hand
  • Inflammation in the shoulder, arm or hand
  • Nerve injury
  • Shoulder injury

Serious causes of brachial plexus injury

In serious cases of brachial plexus injury, the nerves may be cut from the spinal cord (a condition called avulsion) or become severely compressed. Causes of brachial plexus injury which may not resolve spontaneously include:

  • Autoimmune inflammatory disorder
  • Surgery
  • Traumatic injury
  • Tumor

What are the risk factors for brachial plexus injury?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing brachial plexus injury. Not all people with risk factors will get brachial plexus injury. Risk factors for brachial plexus injury include:

  • Birth (difficult deliveries pose an increased risk for the baby)
  • Family history of autoimmune inflammatory disorders
  • Infection affecting the shoulder or arm
  • Job that requires strenuous or repetitive use of the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Participation in extreme sports
  • Shoulder, arm or hand injury
  • Spinal surgery
  • Sports injuries

Reducing your risk of brachial plexus injury

You may be able to lower your risk of brachial plexus injury by:

  • Avoiding repetitive or strenuous use of the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Using appropriate protective gear when participating in sports

What is brachial plexus injury?

Brachial plexus injury refers to any damage to the brachial plexus, a set of nerves that runs between your spine and your shoulders, arms and hands. Damage to these nerves can result in abnormal sensations, numbness, tingling, or difficulty controlling the muscles of the shoulder, arm or hand.... Read more about brachial plexus injuryintroduction


What are the symptoms of brachial plexus injury?

Symptoms of brachial plexus injury include problems with sensation and a lack of muscle control in the hand, arm and shoulder area. Generally, symptoms include pain, numbness, and difficulty moving.... Read more about brachial plexus injurysymptoms


How is brachial plexus injury treated?

Mild brachial plexus injuries will often heal spontaneously. In cases in which the brachial plexus injury is related to another injury, inflammation or a growth, treatment of the underlying cause will often resolve the brachial plexus injury.... Read more about brachial plexus injurytreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves