Neurapraxia

Neurapraxia is a temporary loss of nerve function. It does not cause permanent damage to a nerve. If your foot "falls asleep," that is a type of neurapraxia. It will go away as soon as you start moving your foot. A more serious neurapraxia could take up to 6 weeks to go away.

CAUSES

  • Anything that strains a nerve can cause neurapraxia. The nerve might be stretched or twisted. Something might press or pound on it and cause decreased blood flow to the nerve. Causes of neurapraxia can include:

  • Bones that break (fracture) or move out of place (dislocation). This can cause the nerves to stretch or twist out of their normal position. This happens most often in the arms and shoulders.

  • Neck strain when the head moves suddenly, such as in a car crash. This is called whiplash (cervical neurapraxia). It can also happen while playing sports. For example, a football injury called a stinger is a type of neurapraxia. It causes severe pain to shoot down an arm.

  • Stretching the neck too far from the shoulder. This damages the nerves that go into the shoulder, arm, and hand. It causes numbness and muscle weakness. This condition is called brachial plexus neurapraxia.

  • Repeated or prolonged pressure can cause decreased blood flow to the nerve (ischemic neurapraxia). Such causes of neurapraxia can include:

  • A cast or bandage that is too tight around an injured arm or leg. This limits blood flow to the nerves and causes a condition called compartment syndrome. This condition develops when pressure builds up around muscles and nerves.

  • Infection and disease. This can cut off blood flow to the nerve.

  • Very cold temperatures.

  • Sleeping in a position that limits blood flow to your leg or arm.

SYMPTOMS

  • Numbness and tingling.

  • Muscle weakness.

  • Burning pain.

  • Cool skin.

DIAGNOSIS

Neurapraxia is diagnosed through:

  • A physical exam. This will include asking questions about your health. Your caregiver will ask about any symptoms you are having. Your caregiver may also:

  • Test how strong your muscles are.

  • Check feeling (sensation) in various areas of your body. A very light touch or pricks with a pin may be used.

  • Check whether you have signs of nerve damage on one side of the body or both.

  • Tests such as:

  • Electromyography (EMG). This test measures electrical activity in a muscle. It shows whether the nerve that supplies the muscle is working.

  • Nerve conduction studies (NCS). They measure the flow of electricity through a nerve.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is a machine that uses magnets and a computer to create pictures of your nerves.

TREATMENT

Treatment aims to ease pain and swelling and to provide support while your body heals.

  • Medicine may include:

  • Pain medicine.

  • Antidepressants.

  • Seizure medicine.

  • Medicine to reduce swelling.

  • For support, options may include:

  • Braces, walkers, or crutches.

  • Physical therapy. Having a specialist work with you often speeds healing. It can also help prevent stiffness and future damage.

  • Surgery. This may be needed if broken or dislocated bones are part of the problem. Surgery also may be done to relieve pressure on nerves or to restore normal blood flow to nerves and muscles.

  • Electrical stimulators. These devices send pulses of electricity into the muscles. The aim is to bring back movement.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

What you need to do at home will vary. It will depend on your treatment plan and the type of neurapraxia you have. In general:

  • Take medicine as told by your caregiver. Follow the directions carefully.

  • Rest. Give your body time to heal.

  • Use any splints, braces, or other support devices as directed. If you have questions about their use, ask you caregiver.

  • Start physical therapy, if that is suggested. Ask if it is okay to practice the exercises at home, too.

  • If areas of your body are numb, take care to protect them from burns or other injury.

  • If you had surgery, you will need to care for your surgical cut (incision). Ask for instructions before you leave the hospital.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments with your caregiver.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have any questions about your medicine.

  • Numbness or muscle weakness continues.

  • Pain continues, even after taking pain medicine.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your pain suddenly becomes severe.

  • Numbness or weakness gets much worse.

  • Your muscles start to twitch or you have muscle spasms.

  • You have a fever.