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Wrist drop

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As the name suggests, wrist drop is a condition wherein your wrist hangs loosely, without being able to extend it. Since it arises from a problem in the radial nerve, wrist drop is also known as radial nerve palsy.


Symptoms of wrist drop

The symptoms vary according to the nature and impact underlying cause and they are: 

  • Weakness in wrist
  • Drooping wrist, inability to raise or stretch it
  • Inability to raise the hand in upright position
  • Weakness in fingers and grip
  • Abnormal sensations in fingers, thumb and forearm
  • Pain, tingling, numbing of the wrist and hand 
See your doctor if you experience the aforementioned symptoms


Causes of wrist drop

The radial nerve initiates in your upper arm and extend to your wrist and fingers. It coordinates with the brain to transmit impulses and henceforth brings about movement in the wrist. Injury to the radial nerve and wrist drop can happen under the following circumstances... 

  • Fracture or injury to the wrist, shoulder, elbow and joints of the hand
  • Deep bruises or cuts in your wrist that reach the radial nerve
  • Tumour, lumps, cysts that can exert pressure in the nerve
  • Improper handling of crutches
  • Pinching of radial nerve from wearing tight bands, watches around the wrist for long time, sleeping over the wrist or shoulder, etc.
  • From medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis

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Complications of wrist drop

  • Chronic pain, loss of movement or feeling in your wrist and hand
  • Mild to serious deformity of hand


Diagnosis of wrist drop

The diagnosis begins with a physical examination of your wrist and shoulder. Your doctor will ask you question regarding the probability of its occurrence and if you have a medical condition.

Movement of your arm will be tested by your doctor to figure out injury in radial nerve. You should also explain the symptoms properly. Following this, you have to undergo X ray of your hand and CT scan, MRI and ultrasound of your head, neck, and shoulder.

Problem in nerve impulse conduction will be detected by Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction tests, which you have to undergo. In rare cases, a nerve biopsy might also be recommended to look for nerve damage.

Apart from those, specific blood tests might be suggested depending upon your medical condition.


Treatment of wrist drop

The treatment would certainly vary as per the injury that had led to wrist drop. If the problem is minor then it would go away with home remedies and exercise.

Your doctor would prescribe different types of medicines to manage the condition and restore the movement of your wrist. OTC analgesics, painkillers, anaesthetic patches or steroid injections are the fine line of approach. Anticonvulsant medicines and tricyclic anti-depressants are prescribed to manage stabbing pain and tingling sensation.

You might need to wear braces or splint to support your wrist.

Other treatment options for wrist drop include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or a surgery to treat the damage when the aforementioned treatments fail to bring about improvement.

Chiropractic and acupuncture therapies also prove beneficial in recovery of wrist drop.


Self care for wrist drop

  • Do not move your wrist randomly and avoid pressure on your upper arm, shoulder or wrist.
  • Physiotherapy- Your doctor will teach you several exercise techniques to restore flexibility and strength of your wrist. It includes some grasping, rotating and passive exercises which you have to practise everyday

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: june 14, 2014

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