Wrist Drop



Wrist drop, also known as radial nerve palsy, is when the muscles controlling wrist extension weaken or become paralyzed. Signs include difficulty extending the wrist and fingers, leading to a dropped or flaccid wrist appearance.


The signs and symptoms of wrist drop vary from patient to patient depending on the severity of the condition. Few signs and symptoms include:

1: Difficulty extending the wrist.
2: Weakness or paralysis of wrist and finger extension muscles.
3: Drooping or flaccid appearance of the wrist.
4: Decreased grip strength.
5: Numbness or tingling in the forearm or hand.
6: Challenges with holding objects or performing fine motor movements.


If the nerve damage is not addressed over time, it can lead to muscle atrophy and further loss of function. The common causes of wrist drops include:

1: Trauma or injury to the radial nerve, such as fractures or dislocations of the arm or elbow.
2: Compression or entrapment of the radial nerve, often due to prolonged pressure or repetitive movements.
3: Nerve damage from medical procedures or injections in the arm or shoulder area.
4: Systemic conditions like diabetes mellitus, can cause nerve damage (neuropathy).
5: Inflammatory conditions like autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or Guillain-Barré syndrome.
6: Tumors or masses pressing on the radial nerve.
7: Infections affecting the nerve, like Lyme disease or leprosy.

The pathology of wrist drop typically involves injury or dysfunction of the radial nerve, which controls the muscles responsible for wrist and finger extension. This nerve can be damaged or compressed at various points along its course, leading to impaired nerve signaling to the muscles.


Diagnostic tests for wrist drop may include:

Physical examination:
Assessing muscle strength, sensation, and reflexes in the affected arm and hand.

Nerve conduction studies (NCS) and electromyography (EMG):
Evaluating the function and integrity of the radial nerve and associated muscles.

Imaging studies:
X-rays, MRI, or CT scans can help identify any structural abnormalities, such as fractures, dislocations, or tumors, that may be compressing or damaging the radial nerve.

Blood tests:
Screening for underlying medical conditions like diabetes or autoimmune diseases that could be contributing to nerve damage.

Nerve ultrasound:
This non-invasive test can assess the structure and function of the radial nerve and surrounding tissues.

Nerve biopsy:
In rare cases, a biopsy of the radial nerve may be performed to examine for abnormalities at a microscopic level.


Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Analgesics or opioids, gabapentin or pregabalin, Corticosteroids, Muscle relaxants, etc.

NOTE: Medication should not be taken without a doctor’s prescription.

Surgical treatment:
Surgical treatment for wrist drop may be considered in cases where conservative treatments have been ineffective or if there's a clear structural issue that requires intervention. Surgical options vary depending on the underlying cause of the wrist drop and the severity of the condition. Here are some surgical approaches that may be utilized:
1: Nerve decompression surgery.
2: Nerve grafting.
3: Nerve transfer.
4: Tendon transfer.


Thermotherapy or heat therapy can help to improve circulation and reduce muscle tension in the affected area. The physiotherapist may use a hot pack or a warm towel to apply heat to the affected area.

Customized splints or braces may can used to support the wrist and fingers, promote proper alignment, and prevent contractures.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS):
Delivers low-voltage electrical currents through electrodes placed on the skin to help relieve pain and stimulate nerves.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES):
Stimulates muscle contractions using electrical currents to improve muscle strength and function.

Functional electrical stimulation (FES):
Applies electrical stimulation to specific muscles or muscle groups during functional activities to assist with movement and rehabilitation.

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS):
Induces muscle contractions using electrical impulses to prevent muscle atrophy and improve muscle strength.

Interferential therapy:
it utilizes two medium-frequency electrical currents that intersect within the tissues to provide pain relief and promote tissue healing.

Ultrasound therapy:
Uses high-frequency sound waves to generate heat and promote tissue healing, potentially aiding in nerve regeneration and reducing pain associated with wrist drop.

Targeted exercises to strengthen wrist and finger extensor muscles, as well as stretching exercises to improve flexibility. Physiotherapy treatment for wrist drop typically focuses on improving muscle strength, range of motion, and functional abilities

Functional training:
Practicing everyday activities and functional tasks to improve coordination and regain independence in daily life.

Manual therapy:
Hands-on techniques such as massage, joint mobilizations, and soft tissue mobilization to alleviate pain, reduce stiffness, and improve tissue flexibility.

Progressive resistance training:
Gradually increasing resistance and intensity of exercises to improve muscle strength and endurance over time.

Nerve mobilization techniques:
Gentle movements and exercises aimed at mobilizing and stretching the radial nerve to improve its mobility and function.


The patient is educated about self-care techniques, such as proper wrist and hand positioning, stretching exercises, and the use of assistive devices or braces. The patient is recommended to modify activities to prevent exacerbating symptoms and promote optimal healing. Emphasizing the importance of adhering to prescribed treatment plans, including attending physiotherapy sessions, performing exercises regularly, and taking medications as directed. Suggestions are given for preventing future injuries or aggravation of the condition, such as maintaining good posture, using ergonomic tools, and avoiding repetitive or strenuous activities.

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