Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Radial tunnel syndrome occurs when the major nerve in the forearm gets compressed or “pinched,” leading to symptoms like pain and weakness. The pain and discomfort is generally worse with usage of the forearm and wrist, and may be provoked by activities that involve gripping an object, lifting the wrist, or lifting the fingers. While radial tunnel syndrome is not very common, it can worsen without proper treatment, causing increased discomfort and potentially affecting hand movements. Other symptoms of radial tunnel syndrome may include:
  • Persistent or intermittent pain in the forearm
  • Weakness in the wrist or hand
  • Tenderness or discomfort along the outer part of the elbow or forearm
  • Difficulty gripping or holding objects
  • Tingling or numbness in the hand or fingers


The primary goal of treating radial tunnel syndrome is to alleviate pain, reduce nerve compression, and restore normal function to the affected arm. 

Non-surgical approaches involve a combination of rest, medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications to alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve overall function. Surgical options, usually performed on an outpatient basis, are considered when non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief. They aim to directly address the compression of the nerve within the radial tunnel, thereby reducing pain and improving functionality in the affected arm.


Non-Surgical Treatments


Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen to manage pain and inflammation.

Physical Therapy

Exercises targeting forearm strength and flexibility, along with techniques to improve nerve gliding.

Bracing or Splinting

Using braces or splints to limit mobility, aid in resting the affected area, and reduce pressure on the nerve.

Steroid Injection

A steroid injection may be performed in an attempt to help reduce swelling and inflammation around the nerve, as well as alleviate pain. 


Surgical Treatments

Radial Tunnel Release Surgery

A synovectomy is an outpatient procedure that removes the inflamed synovial lining of a joint to reduce pain and swelling. In addition to reducing inflammation and pain, this procedure may potentially slow down joint damage in cases where conservative treatments have not worked. 

Why Patients Trust the Center for Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery

Our advanced out-patient surgery center is led by renowned orthopedic and plastic surgeons who specialize exclusively in upper extremity procedures. As the pioneers in advanced nerve reconstruction, we are among few in the world with the expertise to perform these complex procedures. In choosing our center for care, patients gain access to state-of-the-art diagnostics and treatments in a more private environment that ensures the highest standards for safety, quality, and continuity of care.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you experience persistent or worsening forearm pain, weakness in hand movements, tingling or numbness that doesn't improve with rest, or if these symptoms hinder your daily activities or affect your hand's functionality, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance to prevent potential worsening of the condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes radial tunnel syndrome?

Radial tunnel syndrome is typically caused by compression of the radial nerve as it passes through the radial tunnel in the forearm. This compression can occur due to repetitive motions, direct trauma, or anatomical factors.

How is radial tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

Diagnosis often involves a thorough examination by a healthcare professional, which may include physical tests to assess strength, nerve function, and areas of tenderness. Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies can also help in confirming nerve involvement. Your surgeon may also recommend an ultrasound guided nerve block to help diagnose the condition.

When is surgery considered for radial tunnel syndrome?

Surgery is considered if non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate symptoms. It's recommended when symptoms persist, worsen, or significantly affect daily activities. Surgical options involve releasing the compressed nerve or removing structures causing the compression.

What is the recovery time after radial tunnel release surgery?

Recovery times can vary, but typically, patients can expect to mobilize their extremity immediately after surgery. Full recovery of the nerve may take several weeks to months, depending on the individual and the extent of the surgery.

Can radial tunnel syndrome be prevented?

While it may not always be preventable, certain measures such as avoiding repetitive motions that strain the forearm, using proper ergonomic techniques, and taking breaks during activities involving the arm can help reduce the risk of developing radial tunnel syndrome.

HUES Surgeons

You don’t have to live with radial nerve pain. We can help.