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Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial Plexus Injury

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that originate from the spinal cord in the neck and extend down the arm. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves get stretched, compressed, or torn. Consequently, you may experience a loss of function and sensation in the affected arm.

There are various types of brachial plexus injuries, which can range from mild to severe. Some common causes of brachial plexus injury include trauma to the shoulder or neck (e.g., motor vehicle accident, sports-related injury) as well as medical conditions that can affect the nerves in the brachial plexus, such as tumors.

Dr. Brian Mikhayloff from Spine & Sport Center will cover a few common causes of brachial plexus injury and how it clinically presents. After that, we will delve into the scientific research that discusses how chiropractors can help with this condition.

What are the causes of brachial plexus injury?


A common cause of brachial plexus injuries is trauma. This occurs after a traumatic accident after falling. Depending on the severity of the injury, your nerves may get mildly stretched or completely torn.

Sports-related injuries

Athletes who participate in contact sports (e.g., football, wrestling) are at a higher risk of suffering brachial plexus injuries due to high-impact collisions or sudden twisting movements.

Birth injuries

Brachial plexus injuries may follow childbirth due to the baby’s shoulders getting stuck in the birth canal. The use of forceps may also lead to this condition.


Tumors that develop in the brachial plexus or nearby tissues can compress or damage the nerves, leading to weakness, numbness, and pain.


Certain infections, such as Lyme disease or herpes zoster, may precipitate inflammation of the nerves in the brachial plexus.

Radiation therapy

Patients who receive radiation therapy for cancer in the chest or neck area may develop brachial plexopathy.

Inflammatory conditions

Inflammatory conditions can damage the nerves in the brachial plexus and cause weakness and numbness. A classic example is Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Idiopathic etiology

In some cases, the cause of a brachial plexus injury may be unknown. Healthcare professionals refer to this condition as idiopathic brachial plexopathy.

How does brachial plexus injury present clinically

The signs and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury are relatively easy to identify. Your chiropractor will use your clinical presentation along with your medical history to confirm the diagnosis.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of brachial plexus injuries:

Weakness or paralysis

Depending on the severity of the injury, a person with a brachial plexus injury may experience weakness or complete paralysis of the arm on the affected side.

Numbness or tingling

Damage to the nerves in the brachial plexus can cause numbness and tingling. You may feel a “pins and needles” sensation in the arm, hand, and fingers.


Brachial plexus injuries will commonly cause pain in the shoulder and arm. The pain may be sharp or burning. Movement and pressure will often exacerbate your pain.

Difficulty with fine motor skills

People with brachial plexus injuries may have difficulty with fine motor skills, such as grasping small objects and buttoning clothes.

Limited range of motion

Depending on the location and severity of the injury, a person with a brachial plexus injury may have a limited range of motion.

Muscle atrophy

Over time, a brachial plexus injury can lead to muscle wasting and atrophy in the affected arm.

Horner’s syndrome

In rare cases, a person may experience Horner’s syndrome. This causes drooping eyelids, a small pupil, and decreased sweating.

The potential complications of untreated brachial plexus injuries

Chronic pain

Without treatment, a brachial plexus injury can lead to chronic pain in the arm, shoulder, and hand. This pain can be severe and debilitating. Unfortunately, managing chronic pain with medications alone will probably produce counterproductive consequences.


A brachial plexus injury can lead to contractures. These are tight bands of tissue that limit the range of motion in the affected joint. Moreover, contractures can be difficult to treat and may require surgery to correct.


Depending on the severity of the injury and the level of nerve damage, an untreated brachial plexus injury can result in significant disability. This will undoubtedly stop you from performing daily activities, such as dressing, bathing, or even eating.

Loss of sensation

Over time, an untreated brachial plexus injury can cause a loss of sensation in the affected arm. This is a serious complication that could make it difficult to detect physical injuries.

Impaired quality of life

The pain, disability, and loss of function associated with brachial plexus injury can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. As a result, patients will find it difficult to work, socialize, or participate in recreational activities.

The role of chiropractors in the management of brachial plexus injury

Chiropractic care may be able to help with some of the symptoms associated with a brachial plexus injury. Primarily, your chiropractor will address any underlying musculoskeletal issues that could be contributing to the problem. For example, if a person has a misaligned vertebra in their neck, this could cause compression or irritation of the nerves in the brachial plexus.

Chiropractic care involves the use of manual techniques to adjust and realign the spine and other joints in the body, with the goal of:

  • Reducing pain
  • Improving mobility
  • Enhancing overall function

By addressing any misalignments or restrictions in the spine or other joints, chiropractic care may be able to alleviate pressure on the nerves in the brachial plexus and reduce symptoms of pain, numbness, or weakness.

Takeaway message

Brachial plexus injuries lead to an array of signs and symptoms that may negatively impact your quality of life. Prompt intervention from a certified chiropractor can help reduce the severity and frequency of these symptoms.

We hope that this article highlighted the important aspects of brachial plexus injury, as well as the role of a spine clinic in helping patients recover.

For any specific questions about brachial plexus injuries and how we can help, click on this page for a one-on-one consultation (insert a link)!