The axillary nerve is a major nerve that arises from the brachial plexus and supplies the deltoid muscle and the teres minor muscle of the shoulder. An axillary nerve injury occurs when the nerve is damaged or compressed, which can cause weakness or loss of function in these muscles. This can lead to difficulty with shoulder movement and weakness in the arm.
Axillary nerve injuries can be caused by various factors, such as trauma, repetitive overhead movements, or prolonged pressure on the nerve. Some common causes of axillary nerve injury include:
Shoulder dislocation: This is the most common cause of axillary nerve injury. When the shoulder is dislocated, the axillary nerve can be stretched, compressed, or torn.
Fracture of the humerus: A fracture of the upper arm bone can damage the axillary nerve as it passes through the shoulder.
Repetitive overhead activities: Activities that require repetitive overhead movements, such as throwing a ball, swimming, or weightlifting, can put pressure on the axillary nerve and cause injury over time.
Prolonged pressure on the nerve: Prolonged pressure on the axillary nerve, such as from lying on the arm for an extended period of time, can cause injury.
Symptoms of an axillary nerve injury can vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. Common symptoms include weakness or loss of function in the shoulder and arm, pain or numbness in the shoulder or upper arm, and difficulty with shoulder movement, such as lifting the arm.
Treatment for an axillary nerve injury depends on the severity of the injury and the underlying cause. Mild injuries may resolve on their own with rest and activity modification, while more severe injuries may require surgery or physical therapy to help restore function and strength to the affected muscles. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have an axillary nerve injury, as proper diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term complications such as chronic pain, weakness, and loss of function in the shoulder and arm.
Here are some common physiotherapy treatments that may be used:
Range of motion exercises: These exercises can help improve the flexibility of the shoulder joint, which may have become stiff due to immobilization or disuse. Range of motion exercises may include pendulum exercises, shoulder circles, and shoulder stretches.
Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises can help improve the strength of the muscles in the shoulder and arm, which may have become weak due to injury or disuse. Examples of strengthening exercises may include shoulder abduction, shoulder external rotation, and scapular stabilization exercises.
Electrical stimulation: Electrical stimulation may be used to help stimulate the axillary nerve and improve muscle function. This may involve the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES).
Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as soft tissue massage and joint mobilization, may be used to help reduce pain and improve mobility of the shoulder joint.