The radial nerve travels beneath the arm and responsible for controlling the motion of the triceps muscles that are situated at the rear part of the upper limb. This nerve is in charge of straightening out the wrist with the fingers as well as controlling the sensation in a region of the hand.
Damage to the radial nerve can lead to radial neuropathy. It is important to note that radial nerve injury can be caused by infection, physical trauma or exposure to toxins. It often results to numbness, burning or tingling sensation but can also be pain-free. The condition can also lead to weakness or difficulty moving the hand, wrist or fingers. In most instances, the condition can improve once the underlying cause is treated.
What are the causes?
Impairment of the radial nerve has various possible causes such as the following:
- Incorrect use of crutches
- Fractured humerus
- Sleeping with the upper arm positioned awkwardly
- Pressure from leaning on the arm over the back of a chair
- Long-term constriction of the wrist
The usual causes of radial nerve injury involve damage or breaking the arm, overuse, work and sports-related accidents. Depending on the degree of injury, an individual can end up with full laceration of the radial nerve. This occurs once the nerve is severed which can trigger symptoms that are similar to other minor injuries.
Indications of injury to the radial nerve
Injury to the radial nerve typically triggers symptoms in the rear part of the hand, close to the thumb and in the middle and index fingers.
The symptoms might include a piercing or burning pain along with unusual sensations in the fingers and thumb. In addition, there is also tingling, numbness and difficulty straightening out the arm.
The objective of treatment for injury to the radial nerve is to alleviate the symptoms while maintaining the movement of the wrist and the hand. The ideal treatment depends on the underlying cause. In some instances, the symptoms subside slowly on their own over time without requiring intervention.
The doctor might prescribe medications or other forms of treatment to manage the symptoms.
Initial line of treatment
There are several first-line treatment available such as the following:
- Steroid injections
- Analgesic or anti-inflammatory medications
- Braces or splints
- Anti-seizure medications
- Anesthetic patches or creams
When is surgery needed
Those who have radial nerve injury can recover within a span of 3 months of starting treatment if the nerve is not torn or lacerated. There are cases in which surgery is needed such as an entrapped nerve or there is a mass such as a benign tumor on the nerve.
The objective of surgery is to fix any damage on the nerve. In some cases, if the nerve is not believed to heal, tendon transfer can be done to restore functionality to the affected extremity.