Radial nerve roots

Radial nerve roots originate from five spinal nerve roots located in the lower cervical (neck) and upper thoracic (middle back) segments of your spinal cord. These nerve roots eventually go on to form the radial nerve.

Roots C5, C6, C7, C8 and T1 are all part of this group, each branching from the spinal cord before exiting the spinal column through the foramina, or small openings in each of the vertebrae in your backbone. From there, these nerve roots become part of the brachial plexus, a mass of nerves that then splits off to stimulate different regions in your upper body, including the arms, hands and upper back.

Radial nerve root damage

Damage to the radial nerve roots sometimes leads to pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the back of the upper arm, the elbow, the forearm and the hand. It may even affect regular arm function.

Diagnosis of radial nerve damage can be difficult because the symptoms can indicate several conditions, such as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), radial tunnel syndrome (RTS), carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) or even a combination of these issues.

Radial nerve dysfunction can be caused by a number of factors, such as:

  • Constant pressure under your arm
  • Breaking your arm
  • Consistent, long-term wrist constriction
  • Constriction of the radial tunnel (the tunnel near your elbow through which your radial nerve passes)
  • Constant twisting motions of the arm (such as twisting a screwdriver), which are often required in factory or technical work
  • Upper arm compression caused from poor positioning during sleep (or coma)
  • Any long-term pressure on the radial nerve, including swelling of adjacent bodily tissues

Keep in mind that the radial nerve roots comprise just one part of the complex brachial plexus arrangement of nerve fibers that travel through the arm and hand. Two other parts of the brachial plexus that are often damaged include the median nerve roots (associated with carpel tunnel syndrome) and the ulnar nerve roots (associated with the “funny bone”).

Radial nerve root treatment

If you think you might have a problem involving a nerve root, contact your primary care physician. He or she can prescribe a course of conservative treatments, such as pain medication, heat therapy, cold therapy, arm/hand braces or massage. While these methods are often effective, you may need to seek more progressive treatment options if your nerve root pain is severe.

If your shoulder, arm and hand nerve dysfunction originates in the cervical spine and you are considering spinal surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery, avoiding many of the risks and difficulties. Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, and there is no lengthy recovery.§

Contact us for your no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.