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?
Pressure on the radial nerve causes radial tunnel syndrome, which can be quite painful. This nerve is one of the three primary nerves found in your arm. The area of the arm that’s affected is the elbow, where there’s a compression of the radial nerve, 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, 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 a day. 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.
- Extend your arm straight out in front of you with your hand up in a “stop” motion.
- Use the other hand to apply pressure to your palm and pull it toward your body until you feel your forearm stretch.
- Hold for 15 seconds to get a good stretch.
- Repeat this exercise five times and then switch arms.
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 prior to any gripping activities.
- Extend your arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing down and your wrist bent with your fingers pointing down.
- Move your hand toward your body, stretching the outside of your forearm.
- When you feel a good stretch of your forearm, hold for 15 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise five times before switching arms.
Note: Don’t lock your elbow.
You should perform five repetitions of the wrist supination exercise four times a day. 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.
- With your arm at your side, bend the elbow with your palm facing up.
- With your other hand, turn your forearm into the palm-up position as your forearm stretches.
- Hold for 15 seconds.
- Repeat this stretch five times and then switch to the other arm.
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 to it.
- With your arms at your sides, drop your shoulder to reach the floor with your fingers.
- Rotate your arm to the inside (thumb toward your body).
- With the palm up, flex your wrist.
- Tilt your head to the opposite side during the stretch.
- Hold for three to five seconds.
- Repeat five times and then switch arms.
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.
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. The goal of surgery for radial tunnel syndrome is to release the points of abnormal pressure as the radial nerve passes through the radial tunnel.
Releasing the pressure is done 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 is typically an outpatient procedure, and you can go home right afterward 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.
Make sure you consult with an orthopedic doctor or surgeon before choosing any course of action, particularly if you’re exercising independently. For expert diagnosis, treatment, and surgical options, you can turn to our experts at the Hand & Wrist Institute if you’re in the Dallas area. 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.