Radial Nerve Injury

Radial Nerve Injury


A radial nerve injury can limit your ability to perform activities that require use of your hand. To know what to do when you have a radial nerve injury you must understand what a radial nerve is. You also must understand the symptoms of a radial nerve injury.


What Is The Radial Nerve?


Many people may ask What is the radial nerve? What does it do? The radial nerve runs down the underside of the arm and it first controls the movement of the triceps muscle. The nerve is also responsible for extending the wrist and fingers and it controls sensation in part of the hand.


How Does A Radial Nerve Injury Occur?


Radial nerve palsy, injury to the radial nerve, can be caused by physical trauma, infection, or exposure to toxins. Usually, injury to the nerve causes numbness, burning pain, tingling or can even be painless. The condition may cause weakness or difficulty with moving your wrist, hand, or fingers though this condition may improve if treated. There are many actions that cause radial nerve injury such as fracturing your humerus, sleeping on your upper arm, using crutches improperly, and falling or receiving blow to your arm. The most common causes of radial nerve injury are breaking your upper arm, overusing your arm, and sports and work accidents. Lead poisoning can also lead to long-term nerve damage. Poisoning with lead can also affect other nerves in your body.  


What Are The Symptoms Of A Radial Nerve Injury?


Symptoms to look for in radial nerve injury is to check the sensation in the back of your hand, near the bottom of your thumb, and in the index and middle fingers. These symptoms include sharp or burning pain, and unusual sensations in your thumb and fingers called parathesias. You may also find that you can’t stretch your wrist or fingers out fully. This is called “wrist drop” or “finger drop” and it doesn’t occur in all cases.

Picture of a hand highlighting where radial nerve injury symptoms occurRadial Nerve Injury symptoms can occur in the blue highlighted region on this hand. 


How Is A Radial Nerve Injury Diagnosed?


Your doctor may require tests to rule out other causes of a person’s symptoms. You should also have blood tests to check your blood sugar and vitamin levels. These tests look for signs of other metabolic or endocrine conditions associated with nerve damage. A CT scan or MRI can also check for diseases or tumors within your body. Your Doctor may also consider electromyography and nerve conduction tests.  


Treatment For A Radial Nerve Injury


The goal of treatment for radial nerve injury is to relieve symptoms while maintaining movement of your wrist and hand. The best treatment depends on the underlying cause. Several types of first-line treatment for radical nerve injury include: anti-inflammatory medications, anti -seizure medications, tricyclic antidepressants, steroid injections, anesthetic creams or patches, braces or splints, physical therapy to help build and maintain muscle strength, massage, and acupuncture. 

It is common to use a brace or splint to immobilize the nerve, therefore, possibly preventing you from injuring the nerve further while it is healing. Most people with a radial nerve injury will typically recovery within three months of starting treatment if the nerve is not torn or lacerated. 

In some cases, a person will ultimately require surgery. If the radial nerve is entrapped, surgery can relieve pressure on the nerve. If there is a mass, like a benign tumor, located on your radial nerve, you may need surgery to remove it. 

Radial Nerve of the Hand JOIRadial Nerve and Other Nerves of the Arm


The long-term prognosis for a radial nerve injury varies greatly depending on the cause and severity of the injury. In most cases, a full recovery is possible. First-line treatment methods will generally heal most radial nerve injuries within twelve weeks. If your nerve damage is the result of an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or alcoholism, talk to your doctor about how to manage your symptoms.

Related Articles: JOI Certified Hand Therapist, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, & Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

To schedule with JOI Rehab for Hand Therapy, please call 904-858-7045.  


If you have an injury such as a radial nerve injury or another hand injury, it may be time to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Hand Physicians at one of our 5 JOI Medical Offices. To schedule please call 904-JOI-2000 or click the appointment button below.

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By: Belinda Kirkland, DPT, CHT, ATC

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