A trapped nerve is a common injury to a nerve that runs through the arm, wrist and hand.
A trapped nerve is usually not serious, but symptoms can greatly impact quality of life and become permanent if not properly treated in a timely manner. Symptoms include:
- Pain, numbness and tingling
- A weak grip
- Difficulty with fine motor control
- The feeling of your hand or fingers ‘falling asleep’
- Pins and needles
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Pain or tenderness in the elbow, wrist or finger joints
Prompt diagnosis is extremely important! Ignoring symptoms of trapped nerve can lead to permanent loss of function and unwanted sensations.
Your medical professional will examine your hand, wrist, arm and shoulder to determine the location of your trapped nerve. They will also test your range of movement and muscle function. Further testing or imaging may be ordered, such as an X-ray, ultrasound or nerve test, to properly determine the cause and severity of nerve entrapment.
Treatment for a trapped nerve in the arm is similar, no matter the location.
For less severe cases, your doctor will recommend:
- Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling
- A brace or splint to support the joint and/or reduce motion
- Exercise or physical therapy
- Cortisone injections
If your symptoms are severe, or if non-invasive treatment methods have failed, your doctor may suggest surgery to correct the problem. There are several types of surgery to correct a trapped nerve, but the most common type of surgery is known as ‘tunnel release’.
Tunnel Release Surgery
Carpal tunnel release, radial tunnel release and cubital tunnel release all have the same desired outcome: to widen the ligaments through which the trapped nerve passes, so it may move freely. This gives the nerve more room to slide and move. Symptoms of a trapped nerve are usually alleviated immediately and permanently.
Tunnel release surgery is an outpatient procedure, performed under local anesthetic while you are fully awake. You will be given a numbing injection that will last far beyond the surgery itself. A small incision is made and the ligament causing the trapped nerve is released. The wound is then closed and bandaged, and you get to go home immediately.
You will be advised to keep the arm elevated for 24 hours following your tunnel release surgery. Your doctor will advise you on which pain medication to take, as well as potential restrictions on lifting, driving and work. Most people are back to work within 4 days.
You may be prescribed physical therapy to help speed up your healing, and to recover lost range of motion following your trapped nerve tunnel release surgery.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of a trapped nerve, don’t wait! Call Dayton Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Center at (937) 436-5763 to schedule your consultation.