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What are the Different Types of Long Thoracic Nerve Injury?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated May 17, 2024
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Long thoracic nerve injury can result when the nerve is damaged, irritated, overstretched, or entrapped. There are several different types and reasons for injuries to the long thoracic nerve, including injury or trauma to the area and some health conditions such as poor posture, congenital defects, and degenerative processes especially in the neck. Injury to the long thoracic nerve is a common reason for pain and numbness in the neck and shoulder, with scapular winging, an abnormal protrusion of the shoulder blade.

Entrapment or compression of the nerves can be caused by poor posture and body mechanics. This results in radiculopathy, a condition of nerve pain. A congenital abnormality where there is an extra rib above the first rib can create postural problems, which in turn presses on the long thoracic nerve. Improper lifting or carrying of heavy objects can strain or overstretch the nerve and cause long thoracic nerve injury in the form of inflammation, pain, and swelling.

An injury to the brachial plexus, a series of nerves running out from the spine through neck, armpit, and down the arm, can produce long thoracic nerve injury. A severe blow to the mid back area can also damage this nerve. An overstretching of the shoulder when the arm is positioned out away from the body or an overstretching of the neck through lateral flexion, a movement of tilting the chin to the side and towards the chest, can also produce an overstretching and irritation to the long thoracic nerve. An injury to this nerve in the form of abnormal pressure to the nerves from swelling of surrounding areas or a small cut of the nerve itself may also occur with surgical procedures for breast cancer, such as a radical mastectomy where the lymph nodes in the arm pit are removed.

Health conditions which can cause long thoracic injury nerve injury include things like diabetes and some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, where there may be structural damage to nerves. Degeneration of the spine in the trunk area can cause stenosis or narrowing of the canal in the spine where the disc is located. The disc can then begin to bulge or leak out. This can press on the long thoracic nerve, a condition known as nerve entrapment.

Another health condition which can cause long thoracic nerve injury is Parsonage-Turner syndrome, referred to as PTS. This is a situation where there is rapid, short-term brachial inflammation. This syndrome can result in nerve pain lasting from a few days to a few years. The causes of PTS are unknown but may be linked to certain viral or bacterial infection processes such as chicken pox, the flu, and smallpox.

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Discussion Comments
By anon331412 — On Apr 22, 2013

My doctor was trying to get rid of my neck pain from sleeping wrong the previous night. He sat me on the table and stood behind me, put his foot on the table and had me rest my arm on his leg. My armpit was pressed on his leg for a minute and half; it was uncomfortable and my arm went numb. I never regained feeling in my fingertips.

Two days later, I had unbearable pain in my entire arm. Long story short and two ultrasounds later, I found out my vein in my right arm was three times the size of the vein in my left arm. I still have numbness in my fingers and extreme pain under my armpit. Could this adjustment and making my arm fall asleep cause all this? The radiologist said he has only seen the vein swollen like this in trauma situations.

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