Brachial Plexus is a network of nerves that come from the spinal cord in the neck and travel down the arm. They send signals from spine to shoulder, hands and arms. Nerves control the muscles of these areas and also provide feeling in the arm. Sometimes due to injury, the shoulder is forcefully pressed down away from the head that tear or stretch the nerves. Some of the injuries are minor and may recover with time and therapy. But almost all types of brachial plexus injury require pain control.
Pain or burning sensation is experienced in almost all the minor or severe cases of brachial injury. It can be controlled by following:
Drugs mainly nerve membrane stabilizers
Anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device delivers electrical impulses to the nearby nerve pathways to provide relief from pain.
If the injury is severe, is causing extreme pain and fails to improve, then surgical intervention may be required.
Types of surgery for Brachial plexus injury:
Ideally the surgery for brachial plexus injury must occur within three to six months after injury. Surgery performed after this period reduces desired results. In some cases, nerves from other body parts may be used to restore arm function. The various surgical procedures performed are:
In this type of surgery, the injured section of brachial plexus is removed and replaced with a class of nerves from other body structures. The procedure is like uniting a section of new nerves between the two classes of old nerves.
In this method, a less important nerve from the spinal cord is taken and fastened to the spinal cord at the location of torn nerve root. Normally recovery may take several months after surgery, but it can be speeded by performing the surgery near to the targeted muscle. It avoids repairing away from the muscle. A set of exercises performed regularly helps to keep the joints flexible. Splints may also be used to avoid the inward curling of hand.
Rehabilitation after surgical intervention:
Rehabilitation plan is specific for each patient and is planned according to the severity of injury and type of treatment provided. It minimises risks and reduces recovery time after surgery. It includes various processes like:
Physical therapy and occupational therapy
Electrical stimulation to prevent muscle atrophy till the nerves return to their original function
Exercises shoulder extension, depression, flexion, etc. to improve the muscle function
Stretching to improve and maintain the range of motion. It also increases the blood supply to the injury and help nerves to work properly