Your peripheral nerves link your brain and spinal cord to the other parts of your body, such as your muscles and skin. Peripheral nerves are fragile and easily damaged. A nerve injury can interfere with your brain's ability to communicate with your muscles and organs.

If you feel tingling or numbness in your leg, arm, shoulder or hand, you may have injured one or more nerves when you had an accident or broke a bone. You may also experience numbness or tingling if a nerve is being compressed due to factors such as a narrow passageway, tumor or other diseases.

It's important to get medical care for a peripheral nerve injury as soon as possible because nerve tissue can be repaired. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and permanent injury.

  • Experience. Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience treating people whose nerve injuries happened recently — or weeks, months or even years ago. Doctors treat more than 350 people with peripheral nerve injuries each year.
  • Expertise. Mayo Clinic brings together diagnostic skill and comprehensive treatment by highly trained specialists.
  • Team approach. Your medical team can include doctors trained in diagnosing and treating nervous system disorders (neurologists and neurosurgeons); repairing damaged bones, muscles and ligaments (orthopedic surgeons); restoring function after injury (rehabilitation specialists); and treating pain (anesthesiologists or pain specialists).

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Doctors trained in neurology, neurosurgeryorthopedic surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation work together to evaluate and treat your peripheral nerve injuries at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Doctors trained in neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, and physical medicine and rehabilitation work together to evaluate and treat your peripheral nerve injuries at Mayo Clinic in Florida

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Doctors trained in neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, and physical medicine and rehabilitation work together to evaluate and treat children and adults who have peripheral nerve injuries at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Doctors trained in pediatric neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, and pediatric rehabilitation care for children and adolescents who have peripheral nerve injuries at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic doctors trained in nerve damage evaluate people who may have peripheral nerve injuries, including injuries of the brachial plexus.

Your doctor will review your medical history, ask about any accidents or previous surgeries, and discuss your symptoms with you. Your doctor will also conduct a physical and neurological examination. If your neurological examination shows signs of a nerve injury, your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests, which may include:

  • Electromyography (EMG). In an EMG, a thin-needle electrode inserted into your muscle records your muscle's electrical activity at rest and in motion. Reduced muscle activity can indicate nerve injury.
  • Nerve conduction study. Electrodes placed at two different points in your body measure how well electrical signals pass through the nerves.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the nerves that may be damaged and the affected area.

At Mayo Clinic, your treatment team will include doctors trained in nervous system conditions (neurologists) and in repairing nervous system structures (neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons). Other specialists also work with your team and you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your injuries.

If your nerve is injured but not divided in two, the team will assess whether the nerve is healing.

  • If your nerve is healing properly, you may not need surgical repair. You may need to rest the affected area until it's healed.
  • You'll need regular checkups to make sure your recovery continues to its maximum potential.
  • If your condition is due to another medical condition, your doctor will treat the underlying condition.
  • Depending on the type and severity of your nerve injury, you may need medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) to relieve your pain. In some cases, you may need corticosteroid injections to relieve your pain.
  • Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to prevent stiffness and restore function.

If one of your peripheral nerves fails to heal properly, your surgeon can use electromyography (EMG) testing in the operating room to assess whether scarred nerves are recovering. Doing an EMG test directly on the nerve is more accurate and reliable than doing the test over the skin.

Sometimes a section of a nerve is cut completely or damaged beyond repair. Your surgeon can remove the damaged section and reconnect healthy nerve ends (nerve repair) or implant a piece of nerve from another part of your body (nerve graft). These procedures can help your nerves to regrow.

Sometimes your surgeon can borrow another working nerve to make an injured nerve work (nerve transfer).

If you have a particularly severe nerve injury or one that has been untreated for a long time, your doctor may suggest surgery to restore function to critical muscles by transferring tendons from one muscle to another.

A number of treatments can help restore function to the affected muscles.

  • Braces or splints. These devices help hold the affected limb, fingers, hand or foot in the proper position to improve muscle function.
  • Electrical stimulator. Stimulators can activate muscle served by an injured nerve while the nerve regrows. However, this treatment may not be effective for everyone. Your doctor will discuss electrical stimulation with you if it's an option.
  • Physical and occupational therapy. Therapy involves specific movements or exercises to keep your affected muscles and joints active. Physical therapy can prevent stiffness and help to restore function and feeling.
  • Exercise. Exercise can help improve your muscle strength, maintain your range of motion and reduce muscle cramps.

Mayo Clinic researchers have been studying peripheral nerves and their disorders for many years.

Read about peripheral nerve research and peripheral nerve repair and regeneration at Mayo Clinic.

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Mar. 20, 2014