The peripheral nerves are located outside the brain and spinal cord, connecting them to other areas of the body such as the muscles and skin. Injury to a peripheral nerve can cause interference with the brain’s ability to communicate with the muscles and organs.
A peripheral nerve injury may occur due to trauma or repetitive movements that can strain the peripheral nerves. In such instances, symptoms may proceed and include: tingling of numbness in the leg, arm, shoulder or hand, muscle weakness and pain. Numbness and tingling may also occur if pressure is put on the nerve from factors such as narrow passageway, tumor or other diseases.
A peripheral nerve injury requires immediate medical attention in order to repair damaged nerve tissue. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help prevent further complications and permanent injury.
Signs and symptoms of a peripheral nerve injury may include:
· Burning or tingling sensation
· Muscle weakness
· Sensitivity to touch
Peripheral nerve injuries are caused mainly by trauma, either direct or indirect or repetitive movements that can damage the peripheral nerves. Other causes may include:
- Certain conditions (Diabetes, Carpal tunnel syndrome, Ulnar entrapment at the elbow)
- Certain medications
- Injuries or tumors of the brachial plexus
- Exposure to toxins
- Fractures and dislocated bones
Factors that can increase the risk of peripheral nerve injury include the following:
- Repetitive motion, such as those performed for certain jobs
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Exposure to toxins
- Certain genetic conditions (such as Diabetes)
Left untreated, peripheral nerve injuries can lead to further loss of function.
Treatment for peripheral nerve injuries aim to treat the underlying problem, reduce pain and control symptoms. Depending on the type and severity of the nerve injury, treatment options can include the following:
- The use of certain medications (aspirin or ibuprofen) or cortisteroid injections to relieve pain.
- Nerve repair surgery: A surgical procedure that involves completely removing a nerve that is damaged beyond repair and reconnecting the healthy nerve ends.
- Nerve graft: A surgical procedure that involve implanting a piece of nerve from another area of the body.
- Nerve transfer: A surgical procedure that involves borrowing another working nerve to make an injured nerve work.
A number of treatments that can help restore function to the affected muscles include the following:
- Immobilization: The process of wearing braces or splints to hold the affected limb, fingers, hand or foot in the appropriate position in order to improve muscle function.
- Electrical stimulation: The use of a specialized device to help activate muscle provided by an injured nerve while the nerve regrows.
- Physical or occupational therapy: Types of therapy that use specific exercises designed to keep affected muscles and joints active and prevent stiffness.
- Exercise: Following physical workout exercises in order to improve muscle strength and muscle function.
While some peripheral nerve injuries cannot be avoided, minimizing risk factors associated with peripheral nerve injuries can help decrease the incidence of nerve harm.