The radial nerve plays an important role in protecting people from serious injury. While some injuries are difficult to overcome, radial nerve damage is not, and recovery is often a simple and quick process.
What is the Radial Nerve?
The radial nerve is the nerve that allows you to conclude that a stove is hot when you touch it. This nerve controls the sensations on the back of your hand, wrist extension and finger extensions. So the radial nerve is critical to your self-protection. If the nerve is damaged and all sensation is lost, a person may harm himself because the body will not send the signals from the fingers to the brain telling him he should remove his hand from danger.
The radial nerve is near the upper arm bone called the humerus. In most cases this nerve is damaged when someone fractures her humerus bone, and the fracture pinches the nerve. Nerve damage may also occur once the humerus bone begins to heal if the new bone growth compresses the nerve. In extremely rare conditions, nerve damage is caused by surgical plates used to repair the site of the initial fracture. Statistics show that nearly 15 percent of those patients that fracture their humerus also suffer from some degree of radial nerve damage.
Other causes of radial nerve incapacity have been identified. In a condition known as crutch palsy, radial nerve damage occurs due to the improper use of crutches in recovering from another injury. Another cause of radial nerve damage is constricting the wrist with a tight band or strap. Finally, any application of an extended or sudden amount of pressure can damage the nerve. For instance, a gesture as simple as draping your arm over the back of a chair or sleeping in a bad position at night can cause radial nerve damage, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Radial nerve damage is characterized by symptoms that generally affect the hand and the forearm in multiple places. The symptoms include abnormal sensations, difficulty extending the arm past the elbow, difficulty maneuvering the wrist, numbness, a decrease in sensation, tingling, burning sensations and pain, the National Library of Medicine reports.
Radial nerve damage is normally diagnosed by a medical professional using several different testing procedures. Initially the doctor will review your medical history, especially any recent injuries to the area. This is followed by a physical examination. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish nerve damage from the aftermath of a stroke. So a doctor may use such measures a an EMG, MRI, nerve biopsy or nerve conduction test to rule out a stroke in rare cases the National Library of Medicine reports.
Most radial nerve damage repairs itself. If this is the case, the spontaneous healing will occur within three months of the initial injury. However, for those that do not heal on their own within this three-month time period, surgery is often required. Surgery is necessary in order to take pressure off of the nerve, or to repair a tear or other injury through a process called grafting. The recovery process for the surgical procedure is relatively short. However, the patient is normally required to participate in some sort of physical therapy and wear wrist and/or finger splints during the entire recovery process.