Radial nerve dysfunction
Radial nerve dysfunction is a problem with the radial nerve. This is the nerve that travels from the armpit down the back of the arm to the hand. It helps you move your arm, wrist, and hand.
Neuropathy - radial nerve; Radial nerve palsy; Mononeuropathy
Damage to one nerve group, such as the radial nerve, is called mononeuropathy. Mononeuropathy means there is damage to a single nerve. Diseases affecting the entire body (systemic disorders) can also cause isolated nerve damage.
Causes of mononeuropathy include:
Radial neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the radial nerve, which travels down the arm and controls:
When damage destroys the nerve covering (myelin sheath) or part of the nerve itself, nerve signaling is slowed or prevented.
Damage to the radial nerve can be caused by:
In some cases, no cause can be found.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms and medical history. You may be asked what you were doing before the symptoms started.
Tests that may be needed include:
The goal of treatment is to allow you to use the hand and arm as much as possible. Your provider will find and treat the cause, if possible. Sometimes, no treatment is needed and you will get better on your own.
If medicines are needed, they may include:
Your provider will likely suggest self-care measures. These may include:
Occupational therapy or counseling to suggest changes in the workplace may be needed.
Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve may help if the symptoms get worse, or if there is proof that part of the nerve is wasting away.
If the cause of the nerve dysfunction can be found and successfully treated, there is a good chance that you will fully recover. In some cases, there may be partial or complete loss of movement or sensation.
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if you have an arm injury and develop numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness down the back of the arm and the thumb and your first 2 fingers.
Avoid prolonged pressure on the upper arm.
Craig A, Richardson JK, Ayyangar R. Rehabilitation of patients with neuropathies. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 41.
Katirji B. Disorders of peripheral nerves. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 107.
Mackinnon SE, Novak CB. Compression neuropathies. In: Wolfe SW, Hotchkiss RN, Pederson WC, Kozin SH, Cohen MS, eds. Green's Operative Hand Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 28.
Review Date: 4/30/2018
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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