Your motor and sensory nerves control your movement and enable you to feel hot and cold, pressure, and pain. Compared to your bones, they’re fragile; they can be injured by undue pressure, being stretched too hard, or being severed. In all of these instances, you’ll have either pain, numbness, or weakness, or a combination of symptoms.
These nerves are part of your peripheral nervous system, which are those that don’t encompass your brain or spinal cord. Peripheral nerve injuries are fairly common ailments. They can be caused by sports injuries, trauma such as a vehicle accident or a fall, or overuse.
Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons and the medical team at Coastal Empire Orthopedics treat many patients with nerve injuries. Many of these injuries can be treated with pain relievers, injections, braces or splints, and physical therapy. If conservative treatment doesn’t work, your doctor can repair the nerve surgically.
Common peripheral nerve injuries
The following are some of the more common peripheral nerve injuries.
Brachial plexus or “burner” neck/shoulder nerve injury
A brachial plexus injury is a peripheral nerve injury affecting the nerves beginning in the neck and moving down into the arms and hands. You have nerve roots attached to your spinal cord on both sides of your neck called the brachial plexus. They split and move down each arm. The main symptom of nerve damage here is sharp pain running from your neck into your shoulder and arm, sometimes with numbness and/or weakness. This type of injury can result from a vehicle crash, a fall, or from playing sports.
If you play sports, the injury is known as a “burner” or “stinger” because of the neck or shoulder pain. Two-thirds of college football players reported burners in a survey, but most of them never reported the injury while they were on the team.
Radial nerve injury
Your radial nerve moves down the inside of your arm and into the wrist and fingers. It controls your triceps muscle and the ability to extend your wrist and fingers. If you break your arm, you’ll have radial nerve injury. Injuries at work or overuse can also cause damage to this nerve. Symptoms include loss of movement in your wrist, hand, or fingers, pain and numbness.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a widespread peripheral nerve entrapment injury. Your median nerve, providing feeling to your thumb and next three fingers, has become inflamed and swollen. As it moves into your hand, it must navigate through a narrow space, the carpal tunnel. If the nerve is swollen, it can’t move through the tunnel easily, and you’ll experience numbness and pain in your thumb and fingers and the side of your hand where your thumb is. If you work with your hands during the day, whether it’s on a keyboard or using a hammer or drill, your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome increases.
Ulnar elbow entrapment or bicycler’s neuropathy
Your ulnar nerve helps move your hand and lower arm. This nerve branches off of the brachial plexus and moves down your arm through your elbow and on through your wrist. Sometimes it becomes entrapped at a site called the cubital tunnel on the outer side of your elbow. The tunnel is a tiny space, so if the nerve is compressed, you’ll experience pain and weakness and tingling in your lower arm and hand.
Ulnar wrist entrapment
Your ulnar nerve can also be compressed at the wrist as it passes through a small canal. It’s similar to carpal tunnel, except different nerves are involved. You’re more prone to this injury if you bike or play golf, tennis, or baseball. By constantly gripping your equipment with your hands, you’re stressing the nerve repeatedly.
Call or book an appointment online with Coastal Empire Orthopedics for all of your orthopedic needs.