What is Brachial Neuritis?
Brachial Neuritis, also called Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, is inflammation of the brachial plexus – a bundle of nerves traveling from your spinal cord to your chest, shoulder, arm and hand. It is a fairly rare condition, categorized as a form of peripheral neuropathy resulting in pain or loss of function in the nerves that carry signals between the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body.
Typically, Brachial Neuritis affects only one side of the body, but can be involved with nerves in other parts of the body as well. The disease usually begins with the sudden onset of severe pain in the shoulder or upper arm occurring on one side of the body. However, it can also affect both sides of the body.
Brachial Neuritis is sometimes referred to by other names, including: Parsonage-Turner Syndrome; Brachial Plexitis; Brachial Plexopathy; Neuralgic Amyotrophy; and, Brachial Neuropathy.
How is it caused?
Brachial Neuritis can occur in relation to illness or injury, sometimes following vaccination, and other times without a preceding event.
In most cases, severe pain is isolated to one side of the body, usually in the upper arm or shoulder. The pain transitions to weakness, limpness, or paralysis in the following hours or days, accompanied by lack of muscle control and lack of sensation or feeling in the affected shoulder or arm.
Symptoms resolve slowly, in some patients over a period of months, and in others, over a period of years.
Symptoms of Brachial Neuritis:
In diagnosing Brachial Neuritis, physicians rely upon a detailed medical history and clinical physical examination, emphasizing the chronological development of signs and symptoms. While not required, electromyography and nerve conduction studies (EMG/NCS), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the shoulder, or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis can support a diagnosis and/or rule out other conditions.
Sometimes however, with an atypical presentation or if the treating physician is unfamiliar with the condition, Brachial Neuritis can be misdiagnosed, leading to unnecessary treatments. Cervical spine disease, rotator cuff disease, and entrapment neuropathies can occasionally be mistaken for Brachial Neuritis.
How is it treated?
The effects of Brachial Neuritis are known to decrease over time, and treatment options are generally aimed at reducing pain and increasing mobility. For these reasons, corticosteroids, analgesics, immobilization, and physical therapy are possible tools your physician might employ.
One study found that 36% of patients recovered within 1 year, 75% in two years, and 89% in three years.