Doctors and providers who treat this condition


Radial Nerve Palsy

The radial nerve travels down the arm and controls movement of the triceps muscle at the back of the upper arm and backward bending of the wrist. It also helps in movement and feeling in the hand.

The usual causes of radial nerve palsy are physical injury to the nerve from a direct blow or crushing force. It may also occur when the nerve is compressed. For example, improper use of crutches or falling asleep with the arm hanging over the back of a chair. This puts pressure on the radial nerve as it passes through the armpit. A fracture of the upper arm can directly injure the radial nerve. Repetitive twisting motion of the forearm can also cause this.  Sometimes no cause can be found.

“Wrist drop” is the symptom of radial nerve palsy. In this condition, the wrist is bent forward with the fingers curved toward the palm. The back of the hand may become numb.

The treatment depends on the cause of the nerve damage. In some cases just rest, splinting and physical therapy are all that is needed. Surgery to repair the nerve may be needed for chronic symptoms that do not respond to simpler treatments.

Home Care

  1. Rest the arm until normal feeling and strength returns.

  2. If you were given a splint or sling, wear it as directed for support.

  3. Avoid positions that may stretch or put pressure on the underarm. If repetitive motion is the cause for wrist drop, avoid this type of activity with the affected arm.

Follow Up

with your doctor or as advised by our staff.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Increasing arm swelling or pain

  • Numbness or weakness of the face or leg

  • Slurred speech, confusion, trouble speaking, walking or seeing


 Visit Other Fairview Sites 
(c) 2012 Fairview Health Services. All rights reserved.