Radial Tunnel Syndrome (RTS) happens when an injury or pressure is on the radial nerve. It can cause some consequences such as weakness and pain in the arm. An individual with this condition may also face lots of difficulties in doing daily activities such as lifting any object.
Now you may be wondering that are there any ways to treat and prevent this problem? Well, yes, it can be easily treated. According to Winchester Hospital, if treatment starts at the right time, it takes approximately 3 to 6 minutes for the pain to disappear from your arm.
In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into the causes, symptoms, risks, prevention, and treatments of radial tunnel syndrome.
What Is Radial Tunnel Syndrome?
It is a condition that occurs due to the pressure on the radial nerve. Increased pressure can lead to pain and weakness not only in your hand but in the forearm also.
Your radial nerve controls the muscles of the forearms. It passes through your muscle and bone’s tunnel and then runs down the arm.
When the radial nerve gets pinched while performing any activity, it can cause weakness and pain in the arm.
What Causes Radial Tunnel Syndrome?
RTS can occur when the nerve gets pinched along with your radial nerve’s length.
Elbow is also the most common place where this occurs as it travels through a spot that consists of the muscle, tendons, and bone.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Overuse of the arm in movements like pinching, gripping and bending.
- Repetitively twisting your wrist or arm while playing any sports or doing your job.
- Nerve’s inflammation
- Health conditions such as thyroid and diabetes can also be a cause.
- Arm swelling
What Are The Symptoms?
Symptoms may be different from person to person but the most common ones are fatigue, pain, and weakness at the forearm’s top. Here are a few more symptoms and signs that an individual may face.
- Pain gets more intense when you straighten the wrist, middle finger, or arm.
- Gripping the objects becoming difficult.
- Experiencing pain just underneath your elbow.
- Not able to push or lift the objects properly.
- Pain gets more intense while extending fingers.
- Pain gets more intense while rotating the wrist.
Remember, there are chances that everyone may not face the same symptoms. A group of people may experience only mild symptoms and others may face critical symptoms.
If you think you are having any of the symptoms mentioned above, reach out to your doctor. They are the best to tell you that you are experiencing symptoms of RTS or any other condition bothering you.
How Can You Know That You Are On Risk?
Here are the risk factors that can contribute to developing RTS.
- Very less flexibility and strength in the arm and wrist.
- Not giving importance to warm up before playing any kind of sports.
- Work or sports that constantly need the wrist-twisting motion.
- Having Ganglion cysts and tumors in your arm can also create pressure on the nerve.
- Arm injury.
- Swelling in the arm as it squeezes the nerve.
- Inflammation of the radial nerve.
Is There Any Way To Prevent Radial Tunnel Syndrome?
It is slightly difficult to prevent the injuries but still, you can reduce the risk of getting RTS by following the things mentioned below:
- Take crutches in use properly
- Give rest to your arm and hand while performing any repetitive task.
- Follow your thyroid and diabetes plan accurately.
When To Visit a Doctor?
You should visit your doctor when the pain in your elbow, arm, and wrist is getting worse day by day.
How Radial Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
There is not any test that can specifically tell you that you are suffering from radical tunnel syndrome. To find out what is the reason behind your pain, your doctor will go with a physical exam.
They may ask you to turn your palm up while keeping your elbow straight while the doctor will restrict movement of the arm and hand. If you experience pain while moving your hands or arm in the against of resistance, it’s a sign of RTS.
The second test your doctor may perform is Electromyography (EMG). This test allows doctors to know and examine that how well all muscles and nerves are working. An EMG test is consist of two parts, including:
- The Nerve Conduction Study – In this, electrodes are kept on the skin of your arm. It helps to observe that how well the tricep muscles and radial nerves are communicating.
- Needle EMG – In this, a needle is used for inserting the electrodes into the muscle of your arm. The electrical level of your muscles is measured in this test.
If the result of EMG shows that injury in the radial nerve is the reason for pain, it will be RTS.
In some cases, your doctor may also recommend an MRI test. As it also helps in assessing any injury to your hands, wrists, and arm.
What Are The Treatments For Radial Tunnel Syndrome?
Firstly, your doctor will start your treatment with the main aim to return the symptoms caused by RTS. The treatment will include:
- Rest from those activities that are originating the symptoms. Rest along with medication will be enough for most patients. Within the time period of 3 to 6 weeks, they will easily get relief from symptoms.
- Over-the-counter medicines – It helps in reducing inflammation.
- Steroid Injections – They help in getting relief from pressure and inflammation on the radial nerve.
- Wrist and elbow splint – They help in reducing the irritation in your radial nerve.
Your doctor may also recommend you to take more breaks throughout your workday and try to avoid the heavy push and pull activities.
For sports, focus on strength and flexibility exercises and properly do your warm-up before engaging in any sports.
They may also recommend you to wear an arm split at the night. It will help you to keep your arm in a manner that prevents the nerve from getting pinched.
If the treatments mentioned above don’t work for an individual and the condition is getting severe. Then surgery will be the only option left.
The surgery to treat RTS is known as radial tunnel release. In this surgical procedure, the aim is to make your radial tunnel wider. It helps to create more space in the radial nerve and reduces the pressure.
After surgery, your recovery procedure will include rest and physical therapy. After 1 week of the surgery, you will do some gentle exercises, stretching, and massage with soft tissue. You may also use ice packs.
After nearly 6 weeks, you will start performing exercises of the forearm and hand. It will help to bring your strength back.
Also remember, when the recovery process is going on, it will be strictly not allowed to lift anything and engaging in any activity that requires bending your elbow.
When you will be at the final stage of recovery, a few exercises to strengthen your elbow and wrist will be added by your therapist.
Wondering, when you will be completely recovered from the surgery? Well, It totally depends on how much your nerve was damaged before the surgery. But most likely, it can take 6 to 8 months for complete recovery.
Most people easily get completely recovered from radial tunnel syndrome just with the help of medical treatment, and by following all instructions of the doctor. If any patient doesn’t get relief from the medical treatment, then surgery helps them. But this case will be very rare.
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