My story begins in 1998. I was working as a molecular biology researcher and developed carpal tunnel issues with my right wrist from micro-pipette use. On the advice of the nurse at work I switched to pipeting and computer mousing with my left hand. I started to notice pain in my left shoulder and weakness in my left arm. This rapidly became very severe, so severe that even a touch to my left hand was painful. I lost muscle tone in the left arm and in the left side of my back.

I could not sleep laying down because it was painful to be on my back. I could only sleep sitting up for 15-20 minutes, would wake from the pain, roam around the house for a while, and attempt to sleep again. This pattern lasted for over a year. I could not lift my arm above shoulder level and had no external rotation.

My first doctor diagnosed frozen shoulder, gave me cortisone shoots too the joint, and high dose ibuprofen for the pain. This gave me no relief. He wanted to do surgery but I scar easily and this could have caused permanent lost of mobility in the shoulder.

Another doctor suggested Celebrex, which gave me some relief, not much, and I suddenly developed high blood pressure. (Just a warning - I have sulfonamide allergies. This was not a good drug for me. It took a couple of years before we realized that the Celebrex and later Vioxx were causing me to perioditically have severe allegeric rxns requiring predisone to resolve). We also tried massage, PT, H-wave, lidocaine patches, and iotopatches with lidocaine and cortisone. This helped control the pain. The pain started to resolve after a deep lymphedema massage on lymphnodes in the left underarm region which produced bruising left me shaking and shocking after the massage session. My guess is that the massage broke open a swollen lymph node that was pressing down on the brachial plexus nerve bundle. It took about 2 1/2 years to resolve the pain issues, rebuild the muscles with PT and pilates. I worked the whole time.

Just as I began to feel fully recovered from the left shoulder issues, the same problem started on the right side. My right shoulder froze. This time I started in immediately with physical therapy, H-wave, and lidocaine patches to control the pain. Again, the pain extended into the hand and fingers, as well as the back and neck. At the same time, I had a mammogram that required a biopsy. My surgeon removed swollen lymph nodes from under my right armpit and told me these were pressing down on the brachial plexus nerve bundle. As soon as the lymph nodes were removed my shoulder issues started to improve. Again, it took about 21/2 to 3 years for the shoulder to return to close to normal mobility. I have some lost of external rotation on the right side. I ended up quitting my job because of these health issues. My boss told me I was physically unable to do what she required, and to get a lawyer and sue if I wanted work comp.

Right now, as long as I don't do anything repetitive, I don't have pain issues and my shoulders and wrists move well. If I try to do anything repetitive for any length of time, I will notice some pain. I use massage or a lidocaine patch to stop it. What I would like to suggest to anyone with this problem and their doctors is to consider that this might be an infection of some sort producing swollen lymph nodes that press on the brachial plexus nerve bundle. In my case, surgical removal or massage which broke up the swollen lymph nodes, is what started the healing process and immediately reduced the pain. If the pain has gone on for a long period, as in my case, using chronic pain management techniques to re-educate and return the nerves to a normal state.

Hope this helps someone. Hope some doctors look into the possibilities of an infection/swollen lymph node link to the severe brachial plexus pain issues.

bandikoott bandikoott
56-60, F
2 Responses Feb 27, 2010

brachial plexus ,or parsonage turner syndrome has no cure,, most drs say you will recover completly in 5 yrs,, my case has been much different ,, first off you may also have many heart issues starting with hypertension,, dental issues and a paralyzed diaphram.. my first episode was when i was 22 i am now 61 ,, to date i have had 6 different episodes,, the muscle wasting never stops all things just very slowly get worse no pain medication works,, no therapy works,, the only relief i get is from very hot showers or a bath ,,or hottub,, a few cocktails help along with some weed and if yo do not like alcohol oxys work best.. if you do not mind becoming a drug addict.. I know my story is not very encouraging,, but stay positive as it is better then the alternative,,, good luck,,, they will almost tell you you need cervical neck surgery ,, i have had that twice with no help

Ask a regular doctor to check the lymphnodes under the arms near the brachial plexus. If they are swollen, biopsy and removal might help. Good Luck!