Axillary nerve injury

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An injury to the axillary nerve typically occurs as a result of a direct bow to the exterior arm, but it can also be injured right after a shoulder dislocation or nerve compression. To learn to recognize and manage this type of nerve injury, register for a first aid class with a credible provider near you.

What are the symptoms?

  • Numbness on the deltoid muscle over the exterior upper arm
  • Deterioration of the deltoid muscle especially in extended injuries
  • Difficulty in elevating the arm out to the side

If the individual experiences any of these symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible. This is the right move so that the condition is properly diagnosed and the appropriate treatment can be started.

What are the causes?

Axillary nerve injury
Numbness on the deltoid muscle over the exterior upper arm

An injury to the axillary nerve can be caused by a traumatic injury such as a direct blow to the exterior of the upper arm and shoulder dislocation. In such cases, the damage is done to the nerve in which either the axon or myelin sheath is damaged. This can heal or instigate permanent disability, depending on the extent of the damage sustained.

It is important to note that the axillary nerve can also be compressed which will cause the manifestation of the temporary symptoms. This is usually caused by the improper use of crutches particularly with the outdated axillary crutches that can add strain into the armpit when being used.

Another condition known as quadrilateral space syndrome occurs once the axillary nerve is flattened inside the quadrilateral region at the rear part of the shoulder. This is usually seen among those play sports that involves continuous throwing such as baseball.


It is important that the individual should be referred to a neurologist for proper assessment and treatment of the injury. In most cases, an EMG can be taken in order to confirm a diagnosis.

The treatment is not needed as the symptoms will steadily clear up on their own as the nerve starts to heal. Anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed in order to ease the pain and swelling around the nerve which helps minimizes the nerve compression. Just remember that it is best to consult the doctor for the right medications to use and these must be used correctly due to the potential for certain side effects.

Physical therapy can be recommended in order to maintain muscle strength as much as possible. The time frame of the recovery of this injury tends to vary from one individual to another and can range from 6 weeks up to 6 months or longer. In case the symptoms do not clear or the issue becomes worse, the doctor might recommend surgery in order to further assess the problem.

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