What is brachial neuritis?
Brachial neuritis, also known as Parsonage-Turner syndrome, is a condition that affects the brachial plexus, which contains nerves that control muscles in the chest, shoulders, arms, forearms and hands. People with brachial neuritis have nerve damage that causes pain or weakness in these areas. Brachial neuritis is also called brachial neuropathy.
The causes of brachial neuritis are not well understood. It sometimes runs in families, although this is rare. It can also develop as a result of another illness or injury, and sometimes without a clear cause. This type is called idiopathic brachial neuritis, and it may result from the body’s immune system attacking the nerve fibers in the brachial plexus.
Males between the ages of 20 and 60 are most likely to develop brachial neuritis. Many people who rapidly develop brachial neuritis have recently recovered from a virus or other infection, or have had a vaccination, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), recent surgery or other tests and treatments.
What are the symptoms of brachial neuritis?
Brachial neuritis often affects only one side of the body, but on rare occasions this condition can also cause symptoms on both sides.
Symptoms can begin unexpectedly without an obvious injury or physical condition as a cause. Symptoms of brachial neuritis can include:
- Burning sensation
- Feeling of an electric shock
- Loss of function or feeling
- Severe, sharp pain
This condition can cause serious and permanent weakness or disability, and it’s important to see a doctor right away if you are having symptoms.
How is brachial neuritis diagnosed?
The doctor will ask about symptoms and perform tests that assess muscle strength, reflexes and sensation in the affected area.
A test called electromyography (EMG) is used to confirm the diagnosis. This test measures how muscles respond to electrical stimulation from electrodes. The electrodes are inserted into muscles.
The results of the EMG test show the location, nature and severity of any nerve damage caused by brachial neuritis. This test can be uncomfortable, and the affected area may be sore for a few hours afterward.
How is brachial neuritis treated?
The first step in treating brachial neuritis is to develop a pain management plan. Steroid medications such as prednisone may be used early on, and pain medications can also help. Pain usually subsides over several months.
Rehabilitation with physical and occupational therapy can help the arm and shoulder return to their normal function. This can include active and passive exercises over many months. Recovery from brachial neuritis is a slow process that can take months to years.
Do vaccines cause brachial neuritis?
Although the cause is unknown, brachial neuritis can develop as a result of adverse reactions to a vaccine. That’s why it is a recognized vaccine injury and is specifically covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
The tetanus vaccine has been linked to brachial neuritis. This condition can also occur after a number of other vaccinations including:
- Flu (influenza)
- Hepatitis B
Have you been injured?
If you or a loved one has developed symptoms of brachial neuritis within a few days or weeks following a vaccination, it’s critical to see a doctor as soon as possible.