Hand and Arm Nerve Entrapment

You’ve probably experienced the pain, numbness and tingling that occurs when you hit your “funny bone.” Imagine if you constantly felt that sensation in your arm, hand or fingers. That’s what life is like for many people with a nerve entrapment disorder.

Symptoms of a nerve entrapment disorder can be debilitating. But with proper treatment, they are also manageable.

About Your Nerves

Nerves carry signals from your brain. These signals help you move your muscles, and feel temperature and texture.

Three main nerves run down your arm and hand:

  • The median nerve passes through a small tunnel (the carpal tunnel) between your wrist and ligaments. It helps you bend your wrist, fingers and thumb. It also provides feeling near your palm, thumb, index and middle fingers.
  • The ulnar nerve lies behind your elbow then runs down your arm. It moves your fingers and provides feeling near your little finger and ring finger.
  • The radial nerve runs down the back of your upper arm. It helps you straighten and lift your elbow, wrist, fingers and thumb. It provides feeling near the back of your hand and fingers.

If a nerve is stretched or compressed by bone, muscle or other tissue, you may experience chronic pain and other symptoms. This is called a nerve entrapment disorder, or nerve compression syndrome.

Treatment for Hand and Arm Nerve Entrapment at Mercy

Mercy’s orthopedic specialists understand that nerve entrapment disorders are more than a nuisance. If left untreated, symptoms may become intolerable.

We have experience treating the three main types of hand nerve entrapment:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a pinched median nerve. You may have pain, numbness and tingling in your thumb and first three fingers. Pain may travel up your arm, and you may have hand weakness.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome refers to a compressed ulnar nerve. It causes a “pins and needles” feeling in your ring finger and little finger, especially when you bend your elbow. Your hand grip may weaken and you may lose finger coordination.
  • Radial tunnel syndrome is caused by a compressed radial nerve. You may feel an aching pain along the top of your forearm, especially when you straighten your wrist or fingers. You may also have arm and wrist weakness.

Even if your symptoms are mild or fleeting, you should talk to your doctor. There is a wide range of treatments available:

  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pressure on the nerve.
  • A splint or brace to keep your elbow, arm or wrist in a neutral position. This takes pressure off the nerve.
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation and occupational therapists specializing in hand and arm disorders.
  • Surgical treatments including carpal tunnel release surgery, cubital tunnel release and ulnar nerve anterior transposition.

If a nerve entrapment disorder makes it hard for you to take care of yourself, talk to your Mercy physician. Together we'll help you get rid of your symptoms - and regain your quality of life.


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