What is neuropraxia?
Neuropraxia is an injury to your peripheral nerves. These nerves carry electrical signals (impulses) from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body.
Who does neuropraxia affect?
Anyone can get neuropraxia. The condition may happen after an injury, like a fall or car accident, or from sports injuries.
Does neuropraxia have any other names?
This condition is also called nerve neuropraxia or peripheral neuropraxia.
What do peripheral nerves do?
Your peripheral nerves carry messages from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body. These messages are electrical impulses that tell your muscles to contract and move and help you use your senses.
Nerve cells (neurons) contain fibers called axons. These fibers carry the nerve impulses. A protective layer of fat and protein (myelin) covers the axons and helps impulses move quickly.
What are other types of peripheral nerve injuries?
Neuropraxia is a minor injury. But there are other types of peripheral nerve injuries, including:
- Axonotmesis: This is a group of more severe nerve injuries, where your nerves stretch and become damaged.
- Neurotmesis: In this serious nerve injury, your nerve is completely cut (severed).
See your healthcare provider to find out whether you have neuropraxia vs. axonotmesis or neurotmesis. Your healthcare provider can provide a precise diagnosis.
How common is neuropraxia?
About 350,000 traumatic nerve injuries occur each year. Neuropraxia is especially common in people who play contact sports. It happens in 50% to 65% of football players and nearly 34% of rugby players.
How does neuropraxia affect me?
In neuropraxia, your nerve stays intact. But nerve impulses can’t get through the injured part of your body. These blocked impulses cause your symptoms.
Symptoms and Causes
What can cause neuropraxia?
Neuropraxia can happen for many reasons. Nerves may become crushed or compressed. When this happens, they can’t send electrical impulses. Traumatic neuropraxia can result from:
You can also develop neuropraxia after:
- Surgery (including after anesthesia).
- Giving birth.
- Dental work, if nerve damage occurs during anesthetic injections, tooth extraction or endodontic procedures.
What are the symptoms of neuropraxia?
You may experience neuropathy when you have neuropraxia. Symptoms of neuropathy can include:
Where will I feel neuropraxia?
You feel neuropraxia symptoms near the injury site. Different types of neuropraxia include:
- Axillary neuropraxia: Injury occurs to your axillary nerve, which carries signals to your shoulder joint and arm muscles. You might feel symptoms in your shoulder, arm and hand.
- Brachial plexus neuropraxia: Your shoulder (brachial plexus) nerves are damaged. These nerves carry impulses from your spinal cord to your arms and hands. You typically feel symptoms in one arm.
- Radial nerve neuropraxia: Injury happens to your radial nerve, which moves signals between the back of your arm and hand. You typically feel symptoms in your hand, especially your thumb, middle and index fingers, or in the back of your hand.
- Sural nerve neuropraxia: Your sural nerve is damaged. This nerve carries impulses between your brain and your calf, heel and foot. You typically feel symptoms in your ankle and foot.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is neuropraxia diagnosed?
If you were injured or notice symptoms after surgery or a trauma, see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination to check for nerve damage. They may also order blood tests to check your:
What other tests do healthcare providers use to diagnose neuropraxia?
Your healthcare provider may order imaging scans and nerve and muscle function tests. These tests check nerve damage and the severity of the injury. They may use:
Management and Treatment
What is neuropraxia treatment?
Neuropraxia usually heals on its own. Your healthcare provider can help manage pain. They may recommend:
- Braces, casts and splints.
- Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
Your healthcare provider might recommend neuropraxia physiotherapy treatment such as range-of-motion exercises. Massage and acupuncture might also be helpful, but only if your doctor recommends them.
What medications do healthcare providers use to treat neuropraxia?
Your healthcare provider may recommend certain medications to help manage symptoms, including:
Are there complications of neuropraxia?
Most people with neuropraxia recover fully. But some people develop complications such as:
If scar tissue forms, you may need surgery. Surgeons free your nerve from scar tissue or release nerve compression so your nerve can heal.
How do I manage neuropraxia symptoms?
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Be sure to let them know about any new symptoms you have.
How can I reduce my risk of neuropraxia?
You can help prevent neuropraxia by wearing protective equipment, such as helmets and elbow pads, when participating in activities where you might make hard contact.
How can I lower my risk of complications from neuropraxia?
Make sure to protect the injured area while it heals to prevent further nerve damage. You may need to take a break from sports or other physical activities while you heal.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have neuropraxia?
Expect to feel some discomfort during healing. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to manage these symptoms.
How long does it take neuropraxia to heal?
Neuropraxia can last for a few days or a few months, depending on the extent of your injury. Most people with neuropraxia recover completely. But some people, especially older adults, may take longer to heal.
Is neuropraxia permanent?
Most people recover completely once their nerve’s myelin repairs itself. But you can get neuropraxia again if you receive another injury.
How do I take care of myself when I have neuropraxia?
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should take a break from activities while you heal. It’s important to let the injured nerve rest.
When should I see my healthcare provider if I have neuropraxia?
Keep all appointments with your healthcare provider. Let them know if you develop any new symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Neuropraxia is a mild peripheral nerve injury that usually heals on its own with time and rest. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to best manage pain and other symptoms.
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