Radial Tunnel Syndrome


Radial tunnel syndrome is a medical condition in which people experience pain in the area of the forearm which lies just below the elbow. The focal point of the pain and the symptoms of Radial Tunnel Syndrome have great similarity to those of tennis elbow, often leading doctors to misdiagnose it as tennis elbow.

Radial tunnel syndrome diagnosis is difficult due to the tests available having limited accuracy levels. Therefore most doctors make diagnosis on the basis of patient history and the physical exam results.


How does Radial Tunnel Syndrome arise?

Radial tunnel syndrome arises when the radial nerve comes under increased pressure. The radial nerve starts from neck, goes on to run behind the arm and cross the elbow on the outside. The radial nerve then goes all the way down till the hands.


Causes of increased pressure on the Radial nerve include the following;

  • An injury, especially one to the lateral side of the elbow

  • Inflammation of the tissue surrounding the radial nerve. This can result from performing repetitive tasks, for example working on a factory assembly line.

  • Bone tumors

  • Non-cancerous fatty tumors

What are symptoms of Radial Tunnel Syndrome?

The most common symptoms will be the feeling of pain and tenderness at the outside side of the elbow. Radial tunnel syndrome is different from tennis elbow but the majority of the symptoms are very similar.  Radial tunnel syndrome symptoms aggravate when using the arm where the pain has started (same happens in cases of tennis elbow). The main difference between these two medical conditions is that the place where the elbow is at its most tender differs slightly.



Radial tunnel syndrome is a medical condition which is quite difficult to diagnose. Most cases of radial tunnels syndrome are often diagnosed as being tennis elbow due to the extreme similarities. The best way to make an accurate diagnosis is for the doctor to focus carefully on the physical examination and patient history. There are also electrical tests available which can help in the diagnosis. There is the Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) and the Electromyogram (EMG). In the NCV the speed (or the frequency rate) of electric pulses passing through the radial nerve is measured. If the speed of the electric pulses is too slow this means that the nerve is under pressure.  The EMG on the other hand focuses on muscle function. The point here is if the muscles are not working properly then the nerve must not be working optimally too.

The accuracy of these electrical tests is limited and these tests have been known to fail to spot abnormalities in patients who actually had radial tunnel syndrome. Visit here

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