Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

I'm a 44-year old male and recently diagnosed with brachial neuritis. The doctor doesn't know what caused it but thinks I was overtraining for an iron man competition. Will I recover enough to still compete? The event is about a month away.

Answer:

Brachial neuritis is a fairly uncommon disorder that affects the shoulder and/or one or both arms. Brachial refers to the group of nerves in the neck and arm called the brachial plexus. Neuritis means an inflammation of the nerve.

Patients notice a sudden start to their symptoms. Some report a burning or sharp pain. Others report a throbbing sensation. The pain starts in the neck and moves down one or both arms. The pain may last a couple hours but often persists for several weeks.

For some people there's no known cause of this condition. Others link it to a viral infection, heavy exercise, surgery, or immunization (vaccination). About half the people affected have no idea what might have triggered the neuritis.

Your pain should gradually get less and less. As the pain goes away, muscle weakness becomes more obvious. Over time, the weakness may be accompanied by muscle atrophy (muscle wasting). Recovery is a very slow process, often taking a year or more. Some patients still notice mild weakness or sensory loss.

Most doctors advise their patients with brachial neuritis to limit their activity until strength is fully (or nearly completely) recovered. A rehab program can help you regain motion and strength. Depending on what your doctor tells you, it may be more realistic to shoot for next year's iron man competition. Soheil M. Aval, MD, et al. Neurovascular Injuries to the Athlete's Shoulder: Part I. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. April 2007. Vol. 15. No. 4. Pp. 249-256.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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