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What are Common Causes of Compression Neuropathy in the Arm?

man with hand painCompression neuropathy is a common condition that can affect your hand, wrist, or arm. It can cause pain, weakness, and other symptoms that may require treatment in order to restore normal function and provide relief.

In this blog, Dr. Ather Mirza and Dr. Justin Mirza, Long Island-based orthopedic physicians at Mirza Orthopedics, explain the common causes of compression neuropathy.

What is compression neuropathy?

Nerves extend from your brain and spinal cord, allowing you to feel sensations such as touch, pressure, and pain. Compression neuropathy occurs when a nerve or group of nerves become damaged because it’s compressed or trapped. This is also sometimes called a pinched nerve, and it can be temporary or can cause long-lasting issues.

What are the symptoms?

It can cause any of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of movement
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Burning pain

What are the different types of compression neuropathy in the arm?

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This is the most common type of compression neuropathy in the arm. It affects the median nerve at the wrist, which can become compressed or irritated as it passes through the narrow carpal tunnel passageway in your wrist.

This nerve controls sensation and movement to your thumb, the first two fingers, and half of your ring finger. Symptoms can develop slowly, often starting at night or when you first wake up and getting worse over time.

Cubital tunnel syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome affects the ulnar nerve, which runs from your neck down the inner side of your elbow and to your hand.

This nerve provides feeling and function to the outer half of your hand, including your ring finger and pinky. Symptoms often start when you’re holding your elbow bent for long periods of time, such as during sleep or while you’re talking on the phone.

What are the common causes of compression neuropathy in the arm?

Carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome have the following causes and risk factors:

Carpal tunnel

  • A wrist fracture or dislocation
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • A smaller carpal tunnel
  • Obesity
  • Fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Repetitive flexing of the wrist at work (such as using a keyboard or working on an assembly line)
  • Working with vibrating tools

Cubital tunnel

  • Pressure from leaning on your arm or an arm rest
  • Bending your elbow for long periods of time (such as during sleep)
  • Anatomical issues (such as an ulnar nerve that doesn’t stay in place, abnormal bone growth in the elbow, or thickening of the tissues over the nerve)
  • Physical activity that increases pressure on the ulnar nerve (common in baseball pitchers)

What are the treatment options?

Many cases can be treated by conservative methods, such as taking frequent breaks when you’re using the affected area or applying cold packs to reduce swelling. Corticosteroid shots and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling. Using a splint for your wrist or elbow can also help relieve pressure.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary, but this is usually reserved for severe cases that haven’t responded to other forms of treatment.

If you’re experiencing pain, tingling, or other symptoms of compression neuropathy in your arm, wrist, or elbow, make an appointment today with Mirza Orthopedics. We’ll recommend the most conservative form of treatment that will help you feel better and be able to resume your normal activities.

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