What is a Brachial Plexus Injury? - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?


Whether you live an active lifestyle by participating in sports and outdoor activities or spend your leisure time sitting in the comfort of your home reading a book, a severe pain in your shoulder or arm should not be ignored. It could be a sign that you have suffered a brachial plexus injury. If left untreated, the result could be numbness and a loss of sensation in the affected area leading to even more serious complications. Injuries to the brachial plexus occur under a variety of circumstances, include participation in sports, accidents and even from the trauma of the birth process.

Overview of a brachial plexus injury

The system of nerves carrying signals from your spinal cord through your shoulders and into your arms and hands is the brachial plexus. Damage to these nerves may occur due to any of the following circumstances:

  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Motorcycle collisions
  • Sports injuries

A newborn can suffer a brachial plexus injury if the shoulders are stretched during delivery or due to the pressure exerted on an infant’s arms during a breech delivery.

Trauma can cause the nerves of the brachial plexus to tear, stretch, compress or pull away from the spinal cord to cause the pain, weakness and, in some cases, paralysis of the limb.

Symptoms of a brachial plexus injury

The symptoms you experience with a brachial plexus injury depend upon the severity of the damage done to the nerves and the location of the damage. Minor damage to the nerves caused by a fall or contact while participating in a sports activity might involve stretching or compression of the nerves. This may cause a burning sensation or a feeling similar to an electric shock extending from the shoulder down the arm. It can also bring on numbness or weakness in the arm and hand. The symptoms may last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of days.

Motor vehicle crashes and other serious accidents can cause severe damage to the brachial plexus nerves, including tearing of the nerves. In some instances, the nerve can be torn from the spinal cord. Symptoms associated with severe brachial plexus injuries include the following:

  • Severe pain in the shoulder
  • Muscle weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand
  • Paralysis and loss of sensation in the hand, arm and shoulder

Damage to the brachial plexus nerves may occur during activities in which the shoulder is overextended or forced into an unnatural position, such as participation in contact sports. Someone participating in a wrestling competition could suffer this type of injury. Other causes could be trauma, such as a blow to the shoulder, suffered in an accident or in a confrontation with another person.

When to seek medical attention

A brachial plexus injury may heal on its own without medical treatment, but an injury to the shoulder resulting in pain lasting more than a few minutes should be evaluated by a doctor to determine the extent of damage to the brachial plexus nerves. Left untreated, a brachial plexus injury may result in temporary or permanent disability, muscle atrophy, stiffness in the joints of the shoulder, arm and hand, or chronic pain.

Physical therapy may be prescribed by a doctor to relieve some of the symptoms of a brachial plexus injury. In cases of severe damage to the nerves, such as a complete tearing away from the spinal cord, surgery would need to be performed.

Personal injury lawyers in Ontario

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond & Diamond have years of experience pursuing compensation for the victims of accidents and injuries caused by the negligent conduct of others. If you suffer an injury, call our 24/7 personal injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to one of our team members. We have offices throughout Ontario to offer free consultations and case evaluations.

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