The radial nerve supplies the upper limb. At the elbow joint, it divides into two branches namely the superficial radial nerve and the posterior interosseous nerve (PI nerve). The posterior interosseous nerve is the nerve that becomes trapped or compressed in the forearm due to various reasons such as trauma, tumors and iatrogenic injuries. Radial nerve can be compressed at different points in the elbow and upper forearm. The radial nerve entrapment symptoms are similar to tennis elbow symptoms. So, it is important to identify the cause first. Radial nerve entrapment commonly occurs in those individuals who repeatedly pronate and supinate their arm. Tennis elbow is commonly caused due to repetitive wrist extension.
Symptoms of Radial Nerve Entrapment
- Tingling in the hand and outer forearm.
- Tenderness in the upper forearm.
- The tenderness is at its most at about 4-6 cm down from the lateral epicondyle. In case of tennis elbow, this maximum point of tenderness is just below the bone.
- There is achiness in the wrist.
- Radiating pain into the upper arm.
- Pain upon resisted supination.
- Pain upon extending the middle finger against resistance.
Treatment for Radial Nerve Entrapment
- Rest is important.
- Consult a sports injury specialist or a doctor.
- Repetitive movements of the wrist should be avoided.
- Ice or cold therapy application to the elbow and forearm helps in pain relief.
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen and ibuprofen helps in pain relief.
- Soft tissue techniques can be used to release the supinator muscle which commonly causes the nerve entrapment.
- Strengthening and stretching exercises such as neural stretches can be done.
- If conservative treatment fails, then surgery such as decompression surgery can be done.