Brachial Plexus Injury Exercises

Brachial plexus injury exercises explained

A brachial plexus injury is a problem with nerves traveling down from your neck to your arms and can range in severity. Symptoms of minor injuries will completely vanish within weeks, while more severe injuries could lead to a permanent disability affecting your arm. Let's learn about brachial plexus injury exercises.

All of these injuries may benefit from exercises to aid your recovery and to improve the functionality of the affected area.

Brachial plexus injury

Your brachial plexus is a collection of intertwined nerves which control sensations and movement in your arm and hand. An injury of the brachial plexus is caused by sudden damage to the nerves, which can cause loss of feeling and movement or weakness in the hand, shoulder or arm.


Many brachial plexus injuries in adults will get better on their own, helped by time and therapy. If your injury is not likely to heal itself, however, you may be offered surgery to improve your chances of recovery. Your physician will check feeling in your arm and hand and use additional tests such as CT scans or MRIs to decide how likely your injury is to recover without surgical intervention.

If nerve recovery is not going to happen unaided, you may be recommended surgery such as a tendon transfer.


Keeping your joints flexible is essential and you need to ensure that they stay active and prevent them from stiffening and refusing to move properly when your muscles start to work again, in a similar way to how a rusty hinge may stop a door from functioning as it should.

Overall, your recovery from a brachial plexus injury will depend on a range of factors, such as the severity of your injury, its location and the type of problem you are suffering from. Your age and general condition may also be an influencing factor in determining how well you recover.

In all cases, your recovery is likely to take time as the nerves will only generate at a rate of around 1mm a day. Physical therapy and special brachial plexus injury exercises for the fingers, wrist, elbow, and shoulder can be key to recovery, however, and you may benefit from wearing a supportive brace or a compression sleeve or glove.

Brachial plexus injury exercises

If you have a physical therapist, they can recommend specialist exercises for your specific injury but the following suggestions are all proven to have a positive effect on most brachial plexus injuries.

It is best to check with your physician if you have any doubt about your capability or suitability for exercise.

Neck stretching for brachial plexus injury

Brachial plexus injury exercises focusing on the neck will help you to regain motion after an injury. Start by sitting down and leaning against a wall. Put the hand on the side of your body affected by the injury on your head and turn your head in the opposite direction to the tightness or pain. Keep your elbow on the wall and inhale and exhale slowly. Hold your position for half-a-minute and then repeat nine more times.

Ten repetitions daily should start to show results.

Shoulder shrugs

Shoulder shrugs can be done either seated or standing but you must make sure that your chin is slightly lifted and your head is kept straight. Move your shoulders upwards and then hold them at the highest point you can for around three seconds and relax.

Do this exercise 10 times each day.

Shoulder abduction

Find a space where you can stand or sit with enough room to put your arms out to the sides. Stand or sit up tall, holding your arms down at your sides. Inhale and exhale and when you breathe out, lift your arms straight out to the side until your hands are pointing to the ceiling and your arms are above your shoulders. Hold your position for around five seconds and then lower.

Ten repetitions of this exercise each day should help to prevent stiffness.

Isometric exercises

Isometric brachial plexus injury exercises can be used to build up your neck muscles and help in your recovery. Move your head to the sides and front and back, using your palm to provide resistance. Push slightly against your palm and hold each position for around 15 seconds.

Do three sets for each one of the head positions.

More brachial plexus injury exercises

Lie on your back and prop up your knees. Relax your shoulders and move your chin in the direction of your chest slowly before returning to your original position. Complete this ten times and then turn over onto your side. Place your arm along the floor above your head and lie your head on your arm. Relax your shoulders again and lift your head up slowly and then lower slowly ten times. Switch sides and repeat the same exercise.

Next, turn over onto your front and get on all fours. Relax your head and look down at the ground before slowly lifting it up so that you are looking straight ahead. Slowly lower your head again and repeat this ten more times.

Last Reviewed:
July 12, 2017
Last Updated:
October 18, 2017
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