When patients come in complaining of neck, shoulder, and arm pain, there are many different diagnoses possible. Generally, we think of pinched nerves and muscle spasms first. They’re the most common, and they’re also conditions that are more universally known! But sometimes, the diagnosis is a bit more complicated than that. One such condition is called Brachial Neuritis, also known as Parsonage-Turner Syndrome.
What is brachial neuritis?
After the nerves leave the cervical spine, they branch out into a cluster called the Brachial Plexus. The nerves then spread through the shoulder, and down the length of the arm and into the hands. When the cluster becomes inflamed, it can cause severe pain. Usually it starts in the shoulder and neck, then progresses down the arm and into the hand.
Instead of causing pain on both sides of the body, as some conditions do, brachial neuritis is limited to one side of the body. And as compared to other conditions that cause dull and achy pain, brachial neuritis is sharp and throbbing. In some cases, the muscles in the arm will become weak, and in more severe cases, paralysis can occur.
A depiction of the set of nerves branching from the neck and down the arm.
What causes brachial neuritis?
While the condition is considered to be rare, there are a few ways it can be caused, the most common being idiopathic, meaning that the onset is spontaneous. One cause could be through physical injury; for example, twisting your neck sharply in the opposite direction from your shoulder could inflame the cluster of nerves. Recent infections and bacterias being introduced to the body can also irritate the nerves.
As mentioned before, brachial neuritis is far less common than a pinched nerve. If, however, you’re having persistent pain and weakness in your shoulder and arm, it’s never a bad idea to get it checked to see if it’s being caused by something more complex than a simple muscle spasm.