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Symptoms. Brachial Plexus Injury

By AGE2B team
February 4, 2022

Brachial plexus injury symptoms

The signs and the symptoms of brachial plexus injuries can vary, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Typically, only one arm is affected.


Stretching or compression of the brachial plexus usually results in minor damage to the nerves. These types of injuries are common during wrestling, football, and other contact sports. Mild brachial plexus injury symptoms include:

  • A burning or stinging sensation that shoots down the arm. That’s why athletes sometimes call these injuries “stingers” or “burners.” 
  • Temporary weakness or a loss of sensation in the arm. 

Sometimes these symptoms may persist for a few days or even longer, but it is more common for them to last only several seconds or a few minutes.


When more serious injuries occur that cause severe damage to the nerves, the symptoms are also worse. The most severe injury of the brachial plexus occurs when the nerve root is separated from the spinal cord. Symptoms of serious injury to the brachial plexus may include

  • Severe pain
  • The inability to move the arm, shoulder, or hand, or extreme weakness in certain muscles
  • Complete lack of feeling in the arm, shoulder, and hand 

Brachial plexus injury causes

Upper Nerves: The upper nerves of the brachial plexus are most often damaged when the shoulder is forcibly pushed down at the same time the neck is being stretched upward and away from the shoulder.

Lower Nerves: When an arm is forcibly moved above the head, the lower nerves of the brachial plexus are more likely to be injured.

Injuries occur in many different ways:

  • Contact sports: It is not uncommon for athletes to experience “stingers” or “burners” when they collide with other players and the nerves in the brachial plexus are stretched. 
  • Difficult births: Brachial plexus injuries can occur in infants during birth, especially during prolonged or difficult labor or with breech presentations. Erb’s palsy is a condition in which the upper nerves of the brachial plexus are injured in a newborn. 
  • Trauma: Many kinds of trauma may be brachial plexus injury causes, including falls, motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, and animal bites. 
  • Inflammation: In a rare inflammatory condition known as Parsonage-Turner syndrome (brachial plexitis), the brachial plexus is damaged without an apparent shoulder injury.  
  • Tumors: Benign or malignant growths can compress the nerves of the brachial plexus or can damage them.  
  • Radiation treatment:  Radiation can injure the nerves of the brachial plexus. 

Brachial plexus injury risk factors

Participating in a contact sport, especially wrestling and football, or being involved in a motor vehicle accident increases your brachial plexus injury risks.

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