Nerves carry messages between your brain and the rest of your body. But when nerves are injured, the signals to and from the brain can be disrupted, resulting in a loss of feeling and muscles that do not work properly. The expert providers at the Rochester Regional Health Orthopedics Upper Extremity Program will help you regain nerve function through minimally invasive and non-surgical treatments carefully crafted around your needs.
Our nerves are constantly talking to our brains. Motor nerves make your muscles move by relaying messages between your brain and muscles. Your sensory nerves relay messages between your brain and other parts of the body to signal pain, pressure, and temperature. Made up of fibers that are separated into bundles, each nerve is surrounded by a covering of insulation made up of layers of protective tissue.
Nerves are fragile and easily damaged. Cutting, pressure, and stretching can cause fibers within your nerve to break. If the nerve breaks without damaging the protective insulation, the nerve may regrow (slowly). If both nerve and cover are severed and not properly treated, the nerve fibers may form a neuroma, which is a painful nerve scar.
Common nerve injuries include:
Surgery is necessary to help your nerve and its protective insulation grow and repair.
Your surgeon will sew the protective insulation together so that new fibers can grow and the nerve can work again. If your nerve injury has resulted in a space between the ends of your nerve, your surgeon may need to graft a piece from another part of your body to repair it. This may result in a permanent loss of feeling in the area where your donor graft was taken.
It typically takes three to four weeks for your nerve to begin healing after your protective covering is surgically repaired. You can expect your nerve to grow about one inch per month, depending on your age and other factors. If you suffered an injury in your arm above the fingertips, it may take a year or more until your fingertips regain their feeling. As you recover, it is common to experience pins and needles sensations in your fingertips. This may be uncomfortable, but it typically passes and is a sign of healing.
While you wait for your nerve to heal, physical therapy is a great way to maintain muscle activity and to keep your joints flexible. Be careful, if you’ve injured a sensory nerve, and pay extra attention when cooking so you do not burn or cut your fingers. The location of your injury, your age, and the type of wound all impact your recovery. Your orthopedic surgeon will go over all questions and concerns with you during your consultation.