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The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that begins at the spinal cord and controls the shoulder, hand, and arm muscles in the body. If these groups of nerves are injured, a person can experience numbness, severe pain, weakness, or loss of movement in their arms. In minor cases, the body is able to heal itself when the brachial nerve has been damaged. There generally are two types of brachial plexus treatment: physical therapy and surgery.
In order to determine the proper treatment for a patient, doctors typically first will run a series of tests. It usually is best if the patient is evaluated as soon as the injury takes place for the best brachial plexus treatment results. The exam typically begins with a physical examination and x-rays of the injured arm. To help with the diagnosis, a doctor may order an electromyogram (EGM) test, which involves a small needle electrode being inserted into the skin to test the muscle and its nerves. A neurologist usually will review the results and determine the severity of the nerve damage.
Most people elect to have physical therapy as their form of brachial plexus treatment. The length of the physical therapy usually is based on the severity of the injury and the progress of the patient. Exercises for the brachial plexus could include a variety of arm stretches, hand and wrist exercises, and different range-of-movement exercises. These exercises can prevent the arm from getting too stiff, help strengthen the arm, and improve arm circulation. Once the patient has been trained by a professional physical therapist, they usually are encouraged to do the same exercises at home.
In more severe cases, surgery is the main type of brachial plexus treatment. If a patient does not recover after receiving physical therapy, then surgery typically is performed within the next three to six months after the injury. There are several surgery options available to repair or replace the damaged nerves, which can be done by nerve grafts and nerve transfer. After surgery, many people are able to regain full arm movement within two to six months following physical therapy.
People with a brachial plexus injury should not give up on having full use of their injury arm. In order to have a full recovery, it usually is best to follow the instructions of the physician. It usually is recommended that the patient take their physical therapy exercises or surgery seriously and should not overwork their injury.
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