Discussions By Condition: Shoulder conditions

Parsonage Turner Syndrome/ Brachial Neuritis

Posted In: Shoulder conditions 2 Replies
  • Posted By: theflybri
  • January 1, 2011
  • 08:10 PM

I was diagnosed with brachial neuritis in 1991. I had a month of excruciating pain in my right shoulder which was treated with Percodan. My diagnosis at the time was tendinitis and I was given a sling. As the pain subsided, so did sensation at the surface of my skin along my deltoids, scapula, and down to the extenders for my fingers. This was first noticed by my physical therapist with a pin ****k test. She immediately had me referred to a neurologist who had never seen a case like mine in his career. He recommended a TENS (trans-dermal neural stimulator) to stimulate the muscle groups and advised that neural tissue doesn't regenerate well. If I was lucky, I might see improvement of 1 cm per month. The numbness and paralysis was already extensive and it was too late to save the deltoids. To this day, it's still atrophied, however other compensatory muscles in my neck allow most normal activity. The extenders to my fingers remain at about 80-85%.

In 2010, I developed the same pain in my left shoulder and knew immediately what I was dealing with. If you've experienced this pain, it's unmistakable and allows virtually no relief for sleep or work without treatment. I researched online, discovering that the medical profession has not advanced in this field. In my profession I could not afford to be drugged, so I ordered an $80.00 TENS unit online and used it effectively as a pain blocker (creates "white noise" in local area when the electrode pads are placed on either side of the pain center with continuous pulses at a medium intensity...you have to experiment as units differ) to sleep and work, as well as for muscle stimulation to prevent wasting. Determined to have a better outcome this time, I used range-of-motion and light strength exercises (this will test your thresh-hold for pain) until the pain subsided (about 4-5 weeks) and then began swimming and using heavier weights (don't over do it as the soft muscle is sensitive will be very sore for a few days following weight training). 3 months later, I have regained complete control of the muscle groups.

In my online research, the problems with this condition appear to be that it never seems to be diagnosed quickly enough, and the advise given by "professionals" is frequently misguided. I have seen articles recommending resting the arm in a sling and simply treating the pain with narcotics. This, I can tell you, is a guaranteed recipe for failure. The muscles MUST be stimulated early and often. I now know it can be treated effectively with exercise and stimulation if diagnosed early enough (within about 10 days of onset of pain).

I hope my experience is helpful to others with this rare condition.

Brian in Colorado.

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2 Replies:

  • Hi..I just came back from the Neurologist today and was diagnosed with brachial neuritis as well. I'm one of the many who can't exactly identify when the damage was done as I play a lot of contact sports, got the flu a few weeks before the onset of the pain, etc. I have gone to two hospitals, two different orthopedic surgeons, had X-rays and MRIs done, and have been going to PT (dry needling to force muscle contractions, stretches, taping of my shoulder to prevent it from rolling forward, etc) and have been absolutely miserable the entire time. My physical therapist, (whom I actually like as a person but know he thinks I'm crazy leading me to resent the fact that he wouln't acknowledge the pain I was in) I was almost convinced I was just crazy and somehow mentally creating the unbearable and constant pain/discomfort I felt. I just had to post something bc I don't know anyone else who has ever felt like this. It's been a terrible 3 months and I am so relieved to finally have a name for this thing in my shoulder that is ruining my life. If I could've reached, I probably would've gauged a segment of my shoulder (the point I refer to as the epicenter) out at this point. I have developed a terribly stiff left wrist and middle finger from holding my right shoulder and pressing down so hard. Anyway, I'm just babbling--I can't believe this is an actual problem and I'm just so relieved to know (sorry) there are others who understand this pain. Questions: What can I do? I was given lyrica for the pain which is already making me drowsy and a little nauseous... Shoulder I continue to stretch the neck/shoulder muscles? What should I NOT do? Any advice is welcome...I just need to feel better...
    Anonymous 42789 Replies Flag this Response
  • Hi..I just came back from the Neurologist today and was diagnosed with brachial neuritis as well. I'm one of the many who can't exactly identify when the damage was done as I play a lot of contact sports, got the flu a few weeks before the onset of the pain, etc. I have gone to two hospitals, two different orthopedic surgeons, had X-rays and MRIs done, and have been going to PT (dry needling to force muscle contractions, stretches, taping of my shoulder to prevent it from rolling forward, etc) and have been absolutely miserable the entire time. My physical therapist, (whom I actually like as a person but know he thinks I'm crazy leading me to resent the fact that he wouln't acknowledge the pain I was in) I was almost convinced I was just crazy and somehow mentally creating the unbearable and constant pain/discomfort I felt. I just had to post something bc I don't know anyone else who has ever felt like this. It's been a terrible 3 months and I am so relieved to finally have a name for this thing in my shoulder that is ruining my life. If I could've reached, I probably would've gauged a segment of my shoulder (the point I refer to as the epicenter) out at this point. I have developed a terribly stiff left wrist and middle finger from holding my right shoulder and pressing down so hard. Anyway, I'm just babbling--I can't believe this is an actual problem and I'm just so relieved to know (sorry) there are others who understand this pain. Questions: What can I do? I was given lyrica for the pain which is already making me drowsy and a little nauseous... Shoulder I continue to stretch the neck/shoulder muscles? What should I NOT do? Any advice is welcome...I just need to feel better...I'm not sure if you received my previous response, but hopefully the pain is beginning to subside, other than from use of the tender area. Stretch an utilize the arm and shoulder as much, and even beyond what you can tolerate. Would be interested to know how you're doing.Brian
    theflybri 2 Replies Flag this Response
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