What is Axillary Nerve Injury or Axillary Neuropathy?
The axillary nerve can be injured due to a direct trauma to the outer arm or after a shoulder dislocation or due to nerve compression. Blunt trauma to the shoulder can also cause traction injury to the axillary nerve. Usually treatment is not required, the nerve heals on its own and the symptoms start abating. Anti-inflammatories can be given for pain and swelling relief. PT can also be done. If symptoms persist, surgery is required.
Symptoms of Axillary Nerve Injury or Axillary Neuropathy
- Dull and achy pain in the shoulder.
- Increasing pain upon movement.
- Numbness is present in the region of the deltoid muscle i.e. outer upper arm area.
- Difficulty in moving the arm.
- In prolonged injuries, there is wasting of the deltoid muscle.
- Weakness in the affected shoulder.
Causes of Axillary Nerve Injury or Axillary Neuropathy
- Traumatic injuries such as a shoulder dislocation.
- Direct trauma to the external side of the upper arm.
- Compression of the axillary nerve which can occur due to incorrect technique in using the crutches, which puts undue pressure into the armpit.
Treatment of Axillary Nerve Injury or Axillary Neuropathy
- The patient should consult a neurologist immediately.
- An EMG helps in confirming the diagnosis.
- In majority of the cases, the symptoms gradually improve on their own as the nerve starts to heal and treatment may not be required.
- Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen help in reducing pain and swelling around the nerve. This in turn helps in decreasing the compression.
- Patient should enroll in a physical therapy program to maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
- Recovery can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months or even more.
- If symptoms persist, then surgery may be required.