The radial nerve, while less common compared to the median and ulnar nerves, can become entrapped. The radial nerve originates from the brachial plexus at the neck and supplies the back of the arm, forearm, thumb, index, and part of the middle finger.
Entrapment is often the result of overuse from movements such as repetitive pronation/supination of the forearm, wrist extension, or gripping. There are a few places the radial nerve typically becomes entrapped, including the supinator, fibrous bands around the radial head, the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle, and soft tissues at the neck.
The most common of these sites is at the supinator, a muscle with its primary function being supination of the forearm, or rotating the forearm so the palm faces up. Repeatedly supinating and pronating the forearm can irritate the outside of the elbow and eventually lead to adhesions and entrapment of the nerve passing through.
Lateral epicondylopathy, a more common condition, shares many of the same characteristics as radial nerve entrapment. These conditions can co-exist together so it’s important that a thorough exam is performed. In either case, both respond well with conservative care that may include joint manipulation, Active Release Technique, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, and a home exercise program.