Signs and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury can vary greatly, depending on the severity and location of your injury. Usually only one arm is affected.

Less-severe injuries

Minor damage often occurs during contact sports, such as football or wrestling, when the brachial plexus nerves get stretched. Known as "stingers" or "burners," these injuries can produce the following symptoms:

  • A feeling like an electric shock or a burning sensation shooting down your arm
  • Numbness and weakness in your arm

These symptoms usually last only a few seconds or minutes, but in some people may linger for days or longer.

More-severe injuries

More-severe symptoms result from injuries that tear or rupture the nerves. The most serious brachial plexus injury (avulsion) occurs when the nerve root is torn from the spinal cord.

Signs and symptoms of more-severe injuries can include:

  • The ability to use your fingers, but not your shoulder or elbow muscles
  • The ability to use your arm but not your fingers
  • Complete lack of movement and feeling in your entire arm, including shoulder and hand
  • Severe pain

When to see a doctor

Brachial plexus injuries can cause permanent weakness or disability. Even if yours seems minor, you may need medical care. See your doctor if you have:

  • Recurrent burners and stingers
  • Weakness in your hand or arm
  • Weakness in any part of the arm following trauma
  • Neck pain
  • Symptoms in both arms
  • Symptoms in upper and lower limbs
Feb. 24, 2011