What Are Nerve Compression Syndromes?

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Nerve compression syndrome is a common condition that affects many people, and it can range from mild to severe. While these syndromes can occur in any area of the body, nerve compressions of the hand will present various signs and symptoms that correspond with the specific nerves located within the hand. Understanding these syndromes, what nerves they affect, and how they can be treated is important, and below, we’ll be providing a quick overview of these types of conditions and how they can be treated.

What Are Nerve Compression Syndromes in the Hand?

Nerve compression syndromes that affect the hand primarily attack three nerves and their corresponding branches. These three nerves provide the sensory and motor movements in hand, allowing it to sense pain, touch, and other sensations. When it comes to treating nerve compression syndromes, it’s important to understand what these three nerves control, how they’re distributed, and what happens when they are affected:

  • Median Nerves: The median nerve goes from the hand up the middle of the wrist and into the forearm and elbow. This nerve controls the muscles that bend the fingers and wrists, as well as fine movements in the thumb. They also provide sensation in the palms and fingers, especially the thumb, middle, index, and half of the ring finger.
  • Ulnar Nerves: The ulnar nerve runs along the inner side of the hand and wrist, going along that inner side into the areas behind the elbow. This nerve provides muscle movement for the wrist and pinky finger and the smaller muscles that control fine finger movement as a whole.
  • Radial Nerves: The radial nerve travels along the fingers and thumb, works along the outer wrist areas, back of the thumb and hand areas, and travels along the outer areas of the forearms and elbows. These nerves work to control the muscles that straighten the wrist and hand by supplying sensation to the back areas of the hand.

When any of these areas are significantly injured, most often, patients will experience a loss of sensation in the affected areas. Depending on the injury type, nerve compression syndromes will form, resulting in repeated and prolonged areas of pressure that can trigger inflammation, chronic pain, and microvascular damage. Often, when these nerves are injured, it can result in a variety of conditions, including:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: As the most common and well-studied of hand nerve compressions and is more common in people of older age, women, and those who take part in activities requiring repetitive hand movements.
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome: Also known as Wartenburg syndrome, this type of compression is commonly caused by local trauma to the wrist, such as fractures, or from soft tissue masses such as cysts. Pain, tingling, and sensory issues in hand and wrist are common within these areas.
  • Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome: This type of neuropathy in the hand or wrist can result from carpal bone fractures, tumors, lipomas, and external forces caused by bicycles, wheelchairs, and walkers. These syndromes can cause compressions that lead to issues with finger movements, tenderness, and hand sensations.

What Treatments Can I Get For Nerve Compression Syndromes?

When nonsurgical treatments don’t work for managing nerve compression syndromes, surgical options such as cyst removal, nerve transference surgeries, and nerve tunnel openings can help relieve pain and repair the nerves to provide better sensation and control within the hands. For more information about your surgical options, make sure to speak with your local hand surgeon to learn more.

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