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Radial Tunnel Syndrome (Entrapment of the Radial Nerve)

What it is

Radial tunnel syndrome is caused by increased pressure on the radial nerve, which runs by the bones and muscles of the forearm and elbow.

Causes include:

Noncancerous fatty tumors (lipomas)
Bone tumors
Inflammation of surrounding tissue

Symptoms of radial tunnel syndrome include:

Cutting, piercing, or stabbing pain at the top of the forearm or back of the hand, especially when you try to straighten your wrist and fingers. In contrast to cubital tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome rarely causes numbness or tingling because the radial nerve principally affects the muscles.

If you have any of these symptoms, your doctor may be able to diagnose radial tunnel syndrome by physical examination alone. He or she also may order a test called electromyography, a nerve conduction study, or both to confirm the diagnosis, identify the area of nerve damage, and stage the severity of the condition.

Conservative treatments for radial tunnel syndrome include medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce soft tissue swelling, corticosteroid injections to relieve inflammation and pressure on the radial nerve, and wrist and/or elbow splints to reduce irritation of the radial nerve.

If these conservative measures fail to provide relief your doctor may consider surgery to reduce pressure on the radial nerve. Surgery is often recommended in severe cases, particularly those in which the wrist becomes weak or droopy or it becomes difficult to extend the fingers.