Published: Thu, March 23, 2017
World | By Lorena Waters

Axillary nerve dysfunction

Written by Seth Stoltzfus and Marijane Leonard on

General information

Axillary nerve injury or dysfunction (DNA), also called axillary nerve neuropathy, refers to loss of movement or lack of sensitivity in the shoulder area. This dysfunction is caused by pressure or damage to the axillary nerve, which innervates the deltoid muscle and shoulder skin.

Problems in this nerve can occur in two places:

  • The myelin sheath, which covers and protects the nerve
  • The nerve cell, called axon

Damage to these areas reduces or prevents the movement of impulses inside the nerve. Causes

Causes include:

  • Direct trauma or excessive pressure on the nerve during Prolonged periods
  • pressure exerted by other structures of the body on the axillary nerve or entrapments produced by other parts of the body
  • penetrating injury, such as a knife wound or shot with a weapon Of fire
  • Exceeding normal range of motion

Pressing the limb because exceeding the normal range of motion of the joint can give rise to problems in the axillary nerve And other nerves. That is why specialists insist on warning those who do physical activity or manual tasks that take the necessary precautions not to extend the muscles and limbs beyond their usual range of motion. Some doctors refer to the area primarily affected by DNA as the quadrilateral space, which forms part of the shoulder joint.


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If you have DNA, you may feel a numb or tingling sensation in the shoulder area. You may have weakness in your shoulders and have difficulty doing normal physical activity, such as lifting your arms above your head or lifting objects. Over time, shoulder muscle size can be reduced due to lack of regular physical activity, which can be a problem particularly for people who usually exercise with significant resistance and heavy weights.

The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you a series of questions to determine if you have a problem with the axillary nerve. Then you will be asked to lift your arms to assess if there is pain and tenderness in the upper body. You may also be asked if you have suffered previous injuries to the shoulder or the deltoid muscle or if you have had any other problems in the axillary nerve area. You may be asked detailed questions about using crutches or other orthopedic devices to determine if the axillary nerve injury may be due to certain pressures.

Your doctor may order some tests, such as electromyography (EMG), to get information about the condition of the axillary nerve. It may also be necessary to perform some radiological tests, such as an MRI.

In moderate cases of DNA, your doctor may recommend physiotherapy or changes in your daily routine.

There are several specific exercises that favor the strengthening of certain muscle groups in front of nerve injuries and preservation of nerve function. It is also likely to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation that puts pressure on the axillary nerve.

In many cases, DNA can be corrected with effective treatment. The outcome will depend on the magnitude and nature of the initial injury. A trapped nerve can cause chronic pain and require surgical intervention, while milder cases of DNA caused by prolonged pressures can respond satisfactorily to medications and physical therapy.

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