The axillary nerve innervates the deltoid muscles in the shoulder and is located in the armpit, or axilla. This nerve can be damaged in patients who have a fractured upper arm bone, a cast or splint on the upper arm, improperly use crutches, have disorders of the nervous system or a shoulder dislocation. These conditions can cause the nerve to be damaged or entrapped, which can lead to the symptoms associated with axillary nerve damage.
Patients with damage to their axillary nerve often complain of a decrease in sensation on the outer part of the affected shoulder, reports The New York Times Health Guide. The axillary nerve supplies the touch receptors in the skin of the outer shoulder. If the nerve becomes damaged, the patient will be unable to feel any sensation in that area. Shoulder numbness is a very common symptom in axillary nerve damage, and can be very distressing to the patient.
Shoulder weakness is one of the more common signs of axillary nerve damage. The axillary nerve controls the deltoid muscles of the shoulder. Without this innervation, the deltoids become slack and lose strength. Patients will notice a decrease in shoulder muscle strength. If the axillary nerve damage is not treated, the muscle on the affected shoulder will start to lose muscle mass and become smaller.
Difficulty Lifting Objects
The muscles in the shoulder participate in the lifting of objects. Axillary nerve damage makes using the affected shoulder to lift heavy objects very difficult, according to Medline Plus. Since the nerve is unable to communicate properly with the muscles of the shoulder, patients will start to notice that lifting heavy objects is noticeably harder than prior to the axillary nerve damage. The damage can be so severe that patients will be unable to lift objects that they once were able to lift easily.
Inability to Lift the Arm Above the Head
The deltoid muscles enable the patient to raise her arms over the head. Patients suffering from axillary nerve damage cannot perform this simple movement because the deltoid muscle is unable to function properly without the innervation from the axillary nerve. A patient will notice stiffness, weakness and possibly pain when she attempts to raise her hand above her head. This is a common symptom of damage to the axillary nerve.
The New York Times Health Guide: Axillary Nerve Dysfunction
Drugs.com: Axillary Nerve Dysfunction
Medline Plus: Axillary Nerve Dysfunction
Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/130363-axillary-nerve-damage-symptoms/#ixzz1sqBWiDeX