Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

If your nerve is injured but not cut in half, your treatment 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. Nerves recover slowly and maximal recovery may take many months or several years.
  • 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.

Surgery

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.

Restoring function

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 restore function and feeling.
  • Exercise. Exercise can help improve your muscle strength, maintain your range of motion and reduce muscle cramps.

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Peripheral nerve injuries care at Mayo Clinic

Nov. 18, 2017
References
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