Arm Nerves

A Few Facts About Arm Nerves

There are several arm nerves, or more appropriately, bundles of nerves in the arm, most of which extend from the shoulder area down to the hands and fingers. The nerves in general travel along the outside of the bones, between the bones and the muscles, and as such are fairly well protected from injury. Injury or trauma can of course occur, leading to dysfunction in the nerve or nerves in question. Pressure, or compression on the nerve, such as a pinched nerve, a stretched nerve, pressure from a growth or tumor, and in some instances radiation therapy, can cause nerve dysfunction, usually experienced as pain, decreased mobility, or loss of sensation in part of the arm or the hand. Nerve pain, technically known as neuralgia, is often treated by medication. The cause of neuralgia may not always be known, though it appears to be more common in the elderly.

We most often experience an arm nerve problem when resting or sleeping on the arm, with the result being, when we wake up the arm remains "asleep" and if there is any sensation of feeling at all, it is usually one of tingling in the extremities, at times bordering on pain. What has happened of course is that one of the major nerve systems in the arm, in running along the bones of the arm, can easily be compressed if pressure is applied for a short period of time.

Axillary And Radial Nerves - The symptoms we may experience, and where we experience them will depend upon which of the arm nerves is involved. A fracture of the bone in the upper arm, pressure from a cast, or simply using crutches, can compress the axillary nerves in the arm, with subsequent pain being experienced in the upper arm, the deltoid muscles in the shoulder or both. If the radial nerve is subjected to stress or injury, the use of the triceps in the upper arm may be affected as well as sensation in the wrist and hand. A less severe case of radial nerve "injury" can occur simply by hanging the arm over the back of a chair. This is another instance in which the arm, or at least the hand and fingers, tend to go to sleep, and begin to tingle.

The Brachial Plexus - A group of nerves known as the brachial plexus runs from the spinal column in the neck into the upper arms. If this group of nerves is injured in any way the results can be quite debilitating, with a loss of control of the upper arm being a possible result.

The Ulnar Nerve - The ulnar nerve is another nerve which runs the length of the arm, from the wrist to the shoulder. Long term pressure on this nerve, especially at the elbow, can cause damage, though there are several locations along the length of the arm where the ulnar nerve travels through tight spaces and is subject to compression. Actual injury to the nerve most often occurs in conjunction with an elbow fracture or dislocation. We most often experience a problem with the ulnar nerve when we hit our elbow on a hard surface. Hitting the so-called "funny bone" is not so much as hitting a bone at the elbow, but hitting and compressing the ulnar nerve. More serious symptoms of ulnar nerve injury include deformity of the hand, or difficulty in moving the fingers. The wrist may also become weakened.

Treatment for damage to the arm nerves, depending on the severity, includes supportive pads or braces, injection of corticosteroids where swelling or pressure is a problem, and in some instances surgery, where pressures on the arm nerves cannot otherwise be eased or eliminated. Various medications may be prescribed where pain is the prevalent symptom.