Radial neuropathy

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Radial neuropathy
Classification and external resources
Specialty neurology
ICD-10 G56.3
ICD-9-CM 354.3
eMedicine neuro/587
MeSH D020425

Radial neuropathy (or radial mononeuropathy) is a type of mononeuropathy which results from acute trauma to the radial nerve that extends the length of the arm.[1]It is known as transient paresthesia when sensation is temporarily abnormal.[2]


Symptoms (and signs) of radial neuropathy vary depending on the severity of the trauma; however, common symptoms may include wrist drop, numbness (back of the hand and wrist), and inability to voluntarily straighten the fingers or extend the thumb. Loss of wrist extension is due to paralysis of the posterior compartment of forearm muscles.

Although the elbow extensors are also innervated by the radial nerve, their innervation is usually spared because the compression occurs below, distal, to the level of the axillary nerve.


Humerus - anterior view

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 (when a person falls asleep while heavily medicated)

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 interosseous palsy is distinguished from radial nerve palsy by the preservation of elbow extension.



Nerve conduction velocity(study)


In terms of prognosis radial neuropathy is not necessarily permanent, the majority of radial neuropathies due to an acute compressive event (such as Saturday night palsy) recover without intervention. If the injury is demyelinating (only the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve is damaged), then full recovery typically occurs within 2-4 weeks.

If the injury is axonal (the underlying nerve fiber itself is damaged) then full recovery may take months or years ( or could be permanent). EMG and nerve conduction studies are typically performed to diagnose the extent and distribution of the damage, and to help with prognosis for recovery.[medical citation needed]

Culture and society[edit]

There are a number of 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.[3]
  • Crutch palsy from poorly fitted axillary crutches.
  • Squash palsy, from traction forces in a manner usually associated with the sport squash, can happen to squash players during prolonged periods between matches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Radial Mononeuropathy: Background, Pathophysiology, Epidemiology". Mdscape. eMedicine. Retrieved 16 August 2016. 
  2. ^ "Paresthesia Information Page: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)". www.ninds.nih.gov. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  3. ^ Ebnezar, John (2010). Textbook of Orthopedics. JP Medical Ltd. p. 342. ISBN 978-81-8448-744-2. 

Further reading[edit]