Nerve injuries are treated in various ways and exercises are one option. Before looking at exercises for a radial nerve injury it’s useful to look at what the nerve does and how it gets injured.

What Is the Radial Nerve?

The radial nerve has motor and sensory function and it originates in the neck. The nerve runs down the underside of the arm behind the brachial artery. The radial nerve supplies the lateral and medial heads of the triceps muscle before passing through the radial tunnel.

As the nerve exits the radial tunnel at the elbow it enters the forearm and divides into superficial and deep branches. The superficial branch travels towards the wrist and gives sensory innervation to the thumb, first four fingers and the back of the hand.

The deep branch of the radial nerve passes through the supinator muscle and continues down the forearm. The radial nerve travels to the wrist where it’s responsible for wrist and finger extension.

shoulder massage

How Does the Radial Nerve Get Injured?

The radial nerve gets injured in various ways and the two main injuries are a severed nerve or a compressed nerve. The nerve may be severed due to a fracture or penetrating trauma. There have been cases where the radial nerve has been damaged during surgery.

If the nerve is severed it will be reconstructed by a surgeon by end-to-end suturing or grafting. Following the surgery some rehabilitation is needed to strengthen muscles and the nerve. Medical studies have concluded post operative exercise is an important part of nerve rehabilitation.

Radial nerve compression due to direct pressure on the nerve is one of the most common injuries. Radial nerve compression at the elbow is called radial tunnel syndrome. Repetitive elbow movement, a poor sleeping position and playing sports are all causes of radial tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms associated with radial nerve compression include:

  • Pain in the forearm, hand and fingers
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Inability to flex wrist and fingers
  • Weak grip
  • Wrist drop

When the radial nerve is compressed there are different ways to treat it. Medication including anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce swelling and steroids are sometimes used. Decompression surgery is carried out when non-invasive treatments are not effective.

Doing some exercises to stretch a compressed radial nerve is another way to untrap it.

preparing for exercise

What Are the Best Exercises for a Radial Nerve Injury?

The exercises for radial nerve injury do not actually stretch the nerve but they enable it to move easily. When the nerve can slide between bone, muscle and other tissue it’s less likely to get compressed.

Before doing any radial nerve exercises it’s advisable to consult a physician or qualified physiotherapist. Although the exercises may help an injured nerve some care is needed. Too much stretching could cause further damage to the injured radial nerve.

None of the following exercises require any special equipment and they can all be done in the home.

Simple Stretches

Supinator Muscle Massage

Radial Nerve Glide

Radial Nerve Tensioners

Ball Squeeze

Radial Nerve Sliders

Radial Nerve Crossover

Radial Nerve Ball Passes

Massage Therapy

Final Thoughts

All of the radial nerve exercises are going to help when the nerve is injured. Even when receiving other treatments for a radial nerve injury the exercises provide additional therapy. Keeping the nerve in good condition is essential in order for it to function correctly.


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