Parsonage Turner Syndrome

Parsonage Turner Syndrome

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.


It is possible that the main title of the report Parsonage Turner Syndrome is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • Brachial Neuritis
  • Brachial Plexus Neuritis
  • Idiopathic Brachial Plexus Neuropathy
  • Neuralgic Amyotrophy

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Parsonage-Turner syndrome is a relatively common condition characterized by inflammation of the network of nerves that control and supply (innervate) the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and arms (brachial plexus). Individuals with the condition first experience a sudden onset of severe pain across the shoulder and upper arm. The muscles of the affected shoulder show weakness, wasting (atrophy), and paralysis (atrophic paralysis) within a few hours or days of the onset of the disorder. Although individuals with the condition may experience paralysis of the affected areas that lasts for months or years in some cases, recovery is usually complete. The exact cause of Parsonage-Turner syndrome is not known.


Parsonage-Turner syndrome is a neuromuscular condition. It is characterized by the sudden (acute) onset of severe pain across the shoulder and upper arm due to inflammation of the group of nerves that control the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and arms (brachial plexus). In some cases, the pain may radiate down the arm and into the hand. The degree and intensity of the pain varies among those affected, so that some patients feel no pain but exhibit weakness of the muscles. Local pain around the shoulder girdle is the characteristic symptom. The pain may extend toward the elbow, but seldom beyond the elbow.

Within a few hours or days of the condition's onset, affected individuals may experience muscle weakness, wasting (atrophy), numbness (hyperesthesia), and paralysis of the muscles of the affected shoulder and, in rare cases, muscles of the hand and fingers. In some cases, the condition may affect both sides of the body (bilateral). People with this condition usually recover within a few months although symptoms may sometimes last for a few years. Recovery is usually complete.


The exact cause of Parsonage-Turner syndrome is not known. This disorder has been associated with bacterial or viral infections, particularly of the upper respiratory tract. Also implicated have been parasitic infections, surgery, vaccinations, childbirth, and various intrusive medical procedures such as lumbar puncture and X-ray opaque dyes. Some clinical-scientists believe that this may be an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders are caused when the body's natural defenses against "foreign" or invading organisms (e.g., antibodies) begin to attack healthy tissue for unknown reasons.

Parsonage-Turner syndrome may also arise as a result of another systemic illness, such as polyarteritis nodosa, lymphoma, systemic lupus erythematosis, temporal arthritis, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Affected Populations

Parsonage-Turner syndrome can affect anyone, but is seen most often in young to middle aged adult males.

Standard Therapies


The diagnosis of Parsonage-Turner syndrome is made by exclusion. Many other syndromes mimic PTS. X-rays and MRI studies (magnetic resonance imaging studies) may be used in the process of exclusion.


There is no treatment specifically effective for PTS. Many patients will recover without any treatment. Physical therapy or surgery may be helpful for some people with this disorder. Other treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Investigational Therapies

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Elsayes KM, Sharriff A, Staveteig PT, et al. Value of magnetic resonance imaging for muscle denervation syndromes of the shoulder girdle. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2005;29:326-29.

Ryan M, Twair A, Nelson E, et al. Whole body magnetic resonance imaging in the diagnosis of Parsonage Turner syndrome. Acta Radiol. 2004;45:534-39.

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