Radial Tunnel Syndrome (Entrapment of the Radial Nerve)

Radial tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by the compression of the radial nerve as it travels down the arm toward the hand. When this nerve is entrapped, movement of the arm and hand can become painful.

What You Need To Know About Radial Tunnel Syndrome

What is Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

The radial nerve travels from the side of the neck, down the back of the arm, through the forearm, and into the hand. The radial nerve regulates various arm movements, including forearm rotation, elbow extension, and wrist and finger movement. When the nerve reaches the elbow, it passes through a collection of muscles known as the radial tunnel.

Radial tunnel syndrome — also known as radial nerve entrapment — occurs when the nerve is pinched or compressed as it enters the radial tunnel. While experienced by only 0.003% of the population annually, radial tunnel syndrome can cause considerable pain and decreased mobility.

Finding the best radial tunnel syndrome treatment starts with a visit to Resurgens Orthopaedics. Schedule an appointment at one of our Metro Atlanta locations now.

What Causes Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

When the radial nerve goes through the radial tunnel below the elbow, it travels between different muscle structures. When the radial tunnel and its structures become inflamed, this pressure compresses the nerve, leading to radial tunnel syndrome symptoms.

Radial nerve entrapment may occur congenitally or be caused by certain activities, including:

  • Repetitive motion, such as typing.

  • Repetitive push-and-pull activities, such as throwing a baseball.

  • A hard blow to the outside of the elbow or forearm.

  • Excessively gripping, pinching, or bending your wrist.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

The most common symptom of this condition is radial nerve pain and weakness in the forearm. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain on the back of the hand and/or just below the elbow

  • Pain that gets worse when you rotate your wrists or extend your fingers

  • Tenderness on the outside of your elbow

  • Difficulty gripping objects

  • Trouble lifting or pushing objects

  • Difficulty extending your wrist

How is Radial Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose radial tunnel syndrome, your Resurgens physician will collect a detailed medical history, ask about your symptoms and related activity, and perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic testing such as X-rays, MRI, electromyography, and nerve conduction may also be required to understand the severity of your radial tunnel syndrome symptoms.

Your Resurgens physician will take all of this data to create a unique radial tunnel syndrome treatment plan.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Treatment for radial tunnel syndrome may include medication, bracing or splinting, and physical therapy. If these treatments are not effective, surgery may be warranted. Your Resurgens physician will tailor a treatment plan to your unique condition.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Typically, the first line of treatment for radial tunnel syndrome is to stop or reduce the activity causing pain. Many patients see improvement with three to six weeks of rest.

If pain is still present, these options may also be considered:

  • Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).

  • Steroid injections

  • Wearing a wrist and/or elbow splint to reduce movement and irritation on your radial nerve.

Surgical Treatment

If non-surgical treatments are not effective, your doctor may recommend surgery to relieve pressure from the radial nerve. This procedure is typically outpatient and may involve local or general anesthesia.

During surgery, your doctor will remove the portion of the radial tunnel exerting pressure on the radial nerve, thereby widening the tunnel and removing the source discomfort. Recovery typically takes 2-3 months and involves splinting and physical therapy.

Getting relief for radial nerve pain starts with a visit to Resurgens Orthopaedics. Schedule an appointment now!

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