T Nation

Brachial Neuritis

hey guys, i’ve been checking out this site for a while now ever since my colleague told me about it. it’s awesome i check it out everyday.

i decided to post in the beginner section since i am one, and perhaps this is aimed at any beginners who are/were like me before my injury.

i am 22 yrs old and started working out properly in january 2007. long story short, around the end of september 07 i woke up one morning and had the most excruciating pain in my left shoulder. the pain radiated from the centre of my scapula out to my biceps muscle and it was CONSTANT. when i woke up it felt kind of like i’d slept with my arm in a weird position, but i realised by about midday that day when i could barely move my arm, that i had a problem.

i didn’t go to the doctor’s right away, thinking it was a strain and I’d be back lifting again in a couple of days. during the first week i was unable to sleep. if i did happen to drift off i would wake up shortly after with pain. it was one of the most stressful times of my life (and my girlfriend at the time, I’m sure).

the next week I couldnt take it anymore so i went to see a doctor who told me that i had a rotator cuff issue - tendonitis was the original diagnosis. he asked if i could remember anything that could have brought it on but I couldn’t. the only thing i could recall from weeks leading up to it was I had an ugly cough/cold that lasted a while.

off to physio I went, he concurred with the doc, and I started rehab exercises, TENS machines, usual PT stuff. by the beginning of November the pain had subsided in almost all ranges of movement but the weakness was significant. my physio told me to take xmas off and to come back january for a follow up. i started to hit the gym again by the end of november, albeit very gingerly. i still felt very weak considering the physio thought i was on the mend, I had no strength with some movements.

the first i realised of the true problem was after xmas. i was still getting absolutely no strength in my external rotation and little to none in other movements, essentially anything using the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles. i decided to take a look at it for myself using the old school mirror to mirror method and when i did, i was shocked! in the mirror i could see that my shoulder blade was almost totally visible through the skin, it was like someone had taken an ice cream scoop to my scapula and removed the entire infraspinatus and supraspinatus on my left side.

my triceps and biceps on the left side had shrunk substantially as had the deltoids (front/mid/rear). it was a horrible sight! like half your upper body was anorexic and dying with the other side completely normal.

i went to the doctor who was equally shocked at the atrophy. he sent me to a neurologist the following day who performed an EMG and returned the diagnosis of Brachial plexus neuritis. now that i know what the problem is, I am seeking others who have suffered with this problem… any experiences of the time it takes to heal, just something so that I can gauge how my own recovery is progressing!?

at the moment i am using resistance tubing for my infraspinatus and supraspinatus muscles, both of which remain very weak despite the PT and exercises I have been doing at home. during the EMG i was told that re-innervation had started, I myself feel the fasciculations in the muscles, particularly infraspinatus, but the time it is taking to recover is getting infuriating! i was also told that in around 6-8 months from my EMG (late Jan), i would be on my way to a recovery, but just from the feel of my shoulder now I think this is very optimistic.

I am working out again, although I can only really work my back (chins (just about pull out 5 - still very hard though), pulldowns, rows, dl’s) and legs (squats, lunges, presses). my chest was affected by the neuritis too, my upper peck on the left side is still a little softer than the right. at the moment I can “crank” out 10 reps @ 25lbs dumbbell bench presses (haha), down from 65lbs before I busted it, but it is so fatiguing just to get to 10 reps that i need a spotter to help with the last couple sometimes…

one thing that i can impart from my own experience is that if you are ill, have a lot on your plate (stress), or just arent feeling up to it that day, then miss the gym. it’s not worth it, it’ll still be there tomorrow. even when i felt like utter shit, I’d still go in and work out hard. perhaps this is what caused the problem I have right now. being too hard on myself and not resting anywhere near enough.

if anybody has their own experience of this problem and can give me some ideas on how to structure my training to rebuild what is left of my supraspinatus and infraspinatus, i would really appreciate it. Anything else from anybody, their thoughts, etc. would be fantastic. I am starting to get very depressed with the situation since I am young and all I want to do is get back to how I was before this mess ever happened.

Thanks in advance
Matt