Radial Tunnel Syndrome Pain Relief Exercises

If you experience pain at the elbow, it’s hard to determine what’s causing the problem. Since several conditions cause arm and elbow pain, getting a diagnosis from an orthopedic doctor or surgeon is essential before taking on any exercise program.

What’s Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

A person holding their elbow in pain caused by radial tunnel syndrome.

Pressure on the radial nerve causes radial tunnel syndrome, which can be painful. This nerve is one of the three primary nerves found in your arm. The arm’s area affected is the elbow, where the radial nerve is compressed at the juncture where it enters a narrow tunnel consisting of tendon, muscle, and bone.

The good news is that there are exercises that can help with radial tunnel syndrome. The purpose of the following exercises is to help the radial nerve slide through the radial tunnel in your elbow. Another way to relieve pain and tenderness is to stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles. Exercising regularly and following a structured routine can help you return to your daily life, work responsibilities, and playing sports and enable you to engage in other recreational activities.

Wrist Extension Stretch

The wrist extension stretch should be performed at five repetitions per set, four times daily. You should try to do this exercise five to seven days per week. You can perform this stretch any time of the day, particularly before any activity involving your arm and elbow. You can include this exercise in your preparation for gripping activities such as golf, tennis, and gardening.

Step-by-step directions:

Note: Don’t lock your elbow.

Wrist Flexion Stretch

You should perform five repetitions of the wrist flexion stretch four times a day, five to seven days a week. You can do this stretch any time of the day, but before activity would be most beneficial. This stretch should also be performed before any gripping activities.

Step-by-step directions:

Note: Don’t lock your elbow.

Wrist Supination

You should perform five repetitions of the wrist supination exercise four times daily. You can repeat this exercise five to seven days weekly. The wrist supination exercise will help with gripping and twisting activities that require you to have your palm up.

Step-by-step directions:

Note: Hold your wrist to turn your forearm.

Radial Nerve Glides

You should perform five repetitions of this exercise four times daily for five to seven days a week. This exercise is designed to help restore nerve motion by gliding the nerve through the structures that apply pressure.

Step-by-step directions:

Note: Stretch to the point where you feel tension.

What if At-Home Exercises Don’t Help?

If you’re experiencing pain in your elbow and these exercises don’t seem to provide relief, you may need to complete physical therapy or have surgery to relieve your pain.

Non-Surgical Treatments

If a repetitive motion injury causes your radial tunnel syndrome, the first step is trying to avoid repeated motion, or if that’s not possible, modify the way you move. You can also try reducing the movement that makes your elbow hurt more. Resting your arm and using a splint can help. Avoid heavy pulling, pushing, twisting, or grasping, as this can cause your symptoms to worsen.

Physical therapy can also help. Your physical therapist will work with you, guiding you through exercises and allowing you to stretch. They may use electrical stimulation, such as a tens unit, and ice the area to provide you with significant pain relief. You can also use over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and pain relievers such as naproxen or ibuprofen.


If at-home exercises, physical therapy, or limiting the problematic repetitive motions has failed to improve your condition, you may be a candidate for surgical decompression. Surgery for radial tunnel syndrome aims to release abnormal pressure points as the radial nerve passes through the radial tunnel.
The pressure is replaced via an incision at the outer side of the forearm near the elbow. The surgeon will manipulate the muscle tissues to see any pressure points where the nerve is pinched. The surgeon will then expand the tunnel to relieve the pressure, reducing the pain.

This procedure is typically outpatient; you can go home immediately in a long arm splint. You’d return in eight to 10 days to remove your sutures and be fitted with a removable splint. Two weeks after surgery, you can begin physical therapy and only wear the removable splint at night or when not active. Post-operative therapy will last for about two months.

Consult an orthopedic doctor or surgeon before choosing any action, particularly if exercising independently. For expert diagnosis, treatment, and surgical options, you can turn to our Hand & Wrist Institute experts if you’re in Dallas. You can reach us at 855-558-4263 or use our secure online contact form to ask the doctor a question 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Woman with elbow pain by Marco Verch Professional Photographer is licensed with CC BY 2.0

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.