The human body is made up of many organs and body parts which enables humans to live and survive in this world. One of the body systems known as the nerve system helps humans to move around and to feel things around them through touch. You should always take care of your health so that the body nervous system and all other body systems can work efficiently. There are many conditions that may disturb the nerve system and cause discomfort. One of them is neuropraxia.
Neuropraxia is the mild form of nerve damage. It is the mildest form of peripheral nerve injury (PNI) or also known as grade 1 PNI. PNI is a condition referring to an affected nerve outside of the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system). It often leads to temporary motor and sensory loss which means a person may lose the ability to move a certain part of the body and its ability to sense such as touch is affected temporarily. Neuropraxia leads to blocks on the injured nerve that prevent transmission of electrical signals. The affected site will remain cut off from communication with the rest of the body until the nerve block is cleared.
Neuropraxia is the most common form of nerve damage but it often goes unnoticed or unreported. It is estimated that 13 to 23 cases of neuropraxia per 100 000 persons per year. There are various types of neuropraxia and it depends at the site of the injury. The common one includes brachial plexus neuropraxia (bundle nerve around the shoulder), axillary (nerve start in neck and run through the shoulder) neuropraxia, sural nerve (nerve in feet) neuropraxia and radial nerve (nerve in hand and arm) neuropraxia.
There are many causes leading to neuropraxia but it is mainly divided into ischemia or compression. Ischemia occurs when the blood flow to the tissue or certain body part is low. Compression occurs when their nerve is squeezed or compacted. There are many reasons or events that contribute to neuropraxia. It is commonly due to surgical complications such as poor body placement during surgery, direct puncture or pressure to the nerve, the use of surgical tools and complications from anaesthesia that blocks the nerve function. Beside medical procedure, neuropraxia often is caused by injury such as from vehicle accidents, sports injuries, penetrating injuries such as gunshot or sharp object and falls. Childbirth in a lithotomy position may also cause neuropraxia.
Symptoms of neuropraxia depend on the part of the affected nerve that is blocked. Common symptoms include weakness, pain, loss of sensation, touch sensitivity. Tingling sensation, numbness and loss of motor abilities. Symptoms may not appear immediately after an injury. It may even take weeks before symptoms appear. The most prominent symptoms that make a person easily detected for neuropraxia is when there is loss of motor abilities.
Since it can be difficult to detect neuropraxia or people tend to take things lightly until the problem get severe, it may be a bit too late when a person comes to the doctor. What doctors can do to detect the issues is to run a nerve conduction test using electromyogram. This test is most sensitive to detect changes in nerves around 2 to 3 weeks after an injury. Imaging studies such as ultrasound and CT scan may be used to look out for the causes behind neuropraxia such as fractures or the nerve integrity. MRI scans might be used to get a detailed look on the damages of tissue or nerve especially after a trauma or post-surgery to the spine or pelvis.
In most cases, there is no need for special treatment. The nerve damage is able to heal on itself when left alone for days to weeks. What doctors can offer is pain relief medications such as painkillers, corticosteroids, antidepressant, anticonvulsant and anaesthetics. Doctors may also recommend the use of splints or limb support and physical rehabilitation. Patients should avoid activities that can aggravate the injury and to rest the affected area. Patients should also prevent repeated injury or prolong compression. If there is compression, urgent surgical decompression is needed. If neuropraxia is caused by fractures, surgical decompression will be helpful. In case of no recovery after 3 to 6 months, surgical intervention may be offered as scar tissue could possibly prevent improvement.
Overall, neuropraxia can heal within 1 to 4 weeks. Most patients experience recovery within 2 to 3 months. By the time it improves, a person’s sensation and motor functions are recovered. It is important to treat neuropraxia because when it is left untreated, it could cause a person to be in emotional distress, neuropathic pain that will require more treatment, shrinkage muscle and economic losses due to the patient unable to be productive. Prevention is the initial step in dealing with neuropraxia. Patients must also seek medical attention as soon as possible whenever they have symptoms of neuropraxia. Always keep the doctor informed on the progression of neuropraxia healing so that recovery in a timely manner can be guaranteed.