Radial Tunnel Syndrome

What is Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

Radial tunnel syndrome is a set of symptoms that include fatigue or a dull, aching pain at the top of the forearm with use. Although less common, symptoms can also occur at the back of the hand or wrist. The symptoms are caused by pressure on the radial nerve, usually at the elbow.

What Causes Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

Radial tunnel syndrome is caused by increased pressure on the radial nerve, which runs by the bones and muscles of the forearm and elbow. Causes include:

  • Injury
  • Noncancerous fatty tumors (lipomas)
  • Bone tumors
  • Inflammation of surrounding tissue

What are the Symptoms of Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

Symptoms of radial tunnel syndrome include:

  • Cutting, piercing, or stabbing pain at the top of the forearm or back of the hand, especially when you try to straighten your wrist and fingers.

In contrast to cubital tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome rarely causes numbness or tingling, because the radial nerve principally affects the muscles.

Just as with cubital tunnel syndrome, if you have any of these symptoms, the doctors at Select Orthopedic Specialists may be able to diagnose radial tunnel syndrome by physical examination alone. They may order electromyography to confirm the diagnosis, identify the area of nerve damage, and stage the severity of the condition.

What are the Treatments for Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

Treatment begins with resting the arm from the activity that is causing the symptoms. For most patients, rest combined with medical treatment such as therapy will eventually relieve symptoms.

Treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter medications to reduce swelling.
  • Steroid injections to relieve inflammation and pressure on the radial nerve.
  • Wrist and/or elbow splints to reduce irritation of the radial nerve.
  • Exercise, techniques to reduce the effects of repetitive motion stress, ultrasound, heat and cold.

The goal of treatment is to prevent the return of symptoms. If the job is causing the problem, the work site may need to be changed. More breaks may be needed during the workday and heavy pulling and pushing should be avoided if possible.

For sports injuries, strength and flexibility exercises and adequate warm-up time before playing or practicing are important.

Wearing an arm splint at night can keep the arm in a position that prevents pinching the nerve.

If these conservative measures fail to provide relief after three months, your doctor may consider surgery to reduce pressure on the radial nerve. Surgery is often recommended in severe cases, particularly those in which the wrist becomes weak or droopy or it becomes difficult to extend the fingers.

Select Orthopedic Los Angeles

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Los Angeles:
3617 S Avalon Blvd #200
Los Angeles, CA 90011
Culver City:
4173 Inglewood Blvd. Suite 300
Culver City, CA 90066

Phone: 213-935-8566

Some Insurances We Accept

  • Aetna PPO
  • Anthem PPO
  • Cigna
  • Regal
  • Employee Health Systems

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