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It is known as transient paresthesia when sensation is temporarily abnormal.
There are a number of colloquial terms used to describe radial nerve injuries, which are usually dependent on the causation factor:
- Saturday night palsy from falling asleep with one's arm hanging over the arm rest of a chair, compressing the radial nerve at the spiral groove.
- Honeymoon palsy from another individual sleeping on and compressing one's arm overnight. This can also refer to Anterior interosseous nerve palsy from compression on the forearm resulting in an inability to flex the index and thumb tips. In this interpretation, it is a branch of the median nerve and not the radial nerve which is affected.
- Handcuff Neuropathy from tight fitting handcuffs compressing the superficial branch of the distal radial nerve; this is also referred to as cheiralgia paresthetica.
- Crutch palsy from poorly fitted axillary crutches.
- Squash palsy from a lack of use of the arm in a manner usually associated with the sport squash, can happen to squash players during prolonged periods between matches.
Symptoms vary depending on the severity and location of the trauma; however, common symptoms include wrist drop (the inability to extend the wrist upward when the hand is palm down); numbness of the back of the hand and wrist; and inability to voluntarily straighten the fingers. Loss of extension is due to paralysis of the posterior compartment of forearm muscles; although the arm extensors are also innervated by the radial nerve, their innervation is usually spared.
There are many ways to acquire radial nerve palsy.
The term Saturday Night Palsy refers to an injury to the radial nerve in the spiral groove of the humerus caused while sleeping in a position that would under normal circumstances cause discomfort. It can occur when a person falls asleep while heavily medicated and/or under the influence of alcohol with the underside of the arm compressed by a bar edge, bench, chair back, or like object. Sleeping with the head resting on the arm can also cause radial nerve palsy.
Breaking the humerus and deep puncture wounds can also cause the condition.
Posterior interosseus palsy is distinguished from radial nerve palsy by the preservation of wrist extension.
Radial neuropathy is not necessarily permanent. Peripheral nerve regeneration is an imperfect and slow process, and full restoration of ability may take months, years, or may never occur.
- Moore, K.L. (2003). Essential Clinical Anatomy. Elsevier Health Sciences.
- Dudek, RW (2000). High Yield: Gross Anatomy. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.