Neuropathy - radial nerve; Radial nerve palsy; Mononeuropathy
Radial nerve dysfunction is a problem with the radial nerve. Damage to the radial nerve leads to problems with movement or sensation of the back of the arm (triceps), forearm, or hand.
Radial neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the radial nerve, which travels down the arm and controls movement of the triceps muscle at the back of the upper arm. It also controls the ability to bend the wrist backward and helps with the movement and sensation of the wrist and hand.
Mononeuropathy means a single nerve is damaged. With mononeuropathy, usually the nerve damage is caused locally. However, body-wide disorders may damage just one nerve.
In some cases, no cause can be found.
If other nerves are also affected, the health care provider should look for a medical problem that can affect nerves. Medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease can damage nerves.
The following symptoms may occur:
The health care provider will take a detailed history to find out what you may have been doing just before the symptoms started, and to learn about any other medical problems you may have.
An exam of the arm, hand, and wrist may find:
Tests may be needed, depending on the history, symptoms, and findings from the physical exam. Tests for nerve dysfunction may include:
The goal of treatment is to allow you to use the hand and arm as much as possible. The health care provider should find and treat the cause, if possible. In some cases, no treatment is needed and you will recover slowly on your own.
Surgery to remove masses that press on the nerve may help.
Medical causes such as diabetes and kidney disease should be treated.
CONTROL OF SYMPTOMS
Medications may include:
Whenever possible, avoid or minimize your use of medications to reduce the risk of side effects.
Other treatments include:
Occupational therapy and vocational therapy or counseling to suggest changes at the worksite may be needed.
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.
Nerve pain may be uncomfortable and may last for a long period of time. If this occurs, see a pain specialist to ensure you have access to all pain treatment options.
Call your health care provider if you have had an injury to the arm, and you develop numbness, tingling, or weakness.
Avoid prolonged pressure on the upper arm.
Weiss LD, Pobre TE. Radial neuropathy. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr., eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 22.
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