Forearm and Elbow Conditions

Nerve / Tendon:
Biceps Tendonitis
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow)
Radial Tunnel Syndrome
Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Bone / Joint:
Osteoarthritis of the Elbow
Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Elbow

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Radial Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve condition resultant of a repetitive stress that causes irritation and compression on the radial nerve.

The radial nerve plays a large role in the function of several muscles around the wrist and hand, which, when compressed or pinched at the forearm or elbow, cause the affected muscles to become weak.

This type of nerve compression can also result from an injury and surface as a ganglia, lipoma, bone tumor and inflammation of the surrounding bursa or muscles. Associated symptoms are similar to those experienced with Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and include pain at the top of the forearm and back of the hand when the wrist and fingers are straightened out. The symptom similarities are the only things these two conditions share.

Since the radial nerve primarily connects to muscle, there is no loss of sensation. The radial nerve begins at the side of the neck, where individual nerve roots leave the spine. The nerve roots exit through small openings (called foramen) between the vertebrae. The nerve roots join to form the three main nerves responsible for arm and hand function (radial, ulnar and median) - and travel down the arm to the hand. The radial nerve passes down the back of the upper arm, around the outside of the lateral portion of the elbow and down the forearm and hand.

Risk Factors
Radial tunnel syndrome most often affects athletes and individuals involved in activities requiring repetitive, forceful movements of the arm - such as pushing, pulling, gripping, bending and twisting on a regular basis. While the condition is most often classified as a repetitive stress condition, it can occasionally also result from a single direct blow to the outside of the elbow.

A thorough examination and assessment of the patient's history and lifestyle is necessary in identifying and properly treating radial tunnel syndrome. An electromyogram (EMG) can help muscle function, and a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test can help determine if nerve compression exist.

Treatment options for nerve compression conditions are generally conservative and may consist of a period of rest from the activity responsible for the irritation, as well as a removable arm splint and rehabilitative exercises.

More severe cases and those nonresponsive to conservative treatment may require surgical repair. This nerve decompression procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and followed by a rehabilitation program that refines hand and arm positions during certain activities, in order to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.