Ask the Expert: Dr. Joseph Feinberg, Physiatric Peripheral Nerve Injury Specialist, Answers Your Questions on Peripheral Nerve Injuries
Q1: I am a competitive volleyball player and have recently noticed some weakness in my “spiking” shoulder. My trainer recommended I see a doctor about it in case it is something serious. Is it possible for volleyball players to suffer from peripheral nerve injury?
Volleyball players can sometimes have an injury to the peripheral nerve that supplies part of the rotator cuff muscles. It is called the suprascapular nerve. This can lead to pain and weakness and should be evaluated by either a doctor who specializes in peripheral nerve injuries or a sports medicine physician. A nerve exam known as an Electrodiagnostic test (EMG) can help identify this problem.
Q2: Are dancers at risk for peripheral nerve injuries?
Dancers can sustain injuries to the peripheral nerves in the feet. Common symptoms are numbness, tingling, or burning pain. Although injuries to peripheral nerves in the feet can lead to weakness in the foot muscles, the weakness may be not be obvious and may be difficult to detect. One type of nerve injury, a neuroma can usually be identified with an MRI or ultrasound.
Q3: Is carpal tunnel syndrome related to peripheral nerve injury or is this kind of injury only a result of accidents?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that involves the median nerve in the wrist and causes numbness and tingling in the hand usually involving the thumb, index finger, middle finger and sometime part of the ring finger. Symptoms are often worse at night. It can also lead to pain, loss of strength and loss of fine motor skills. The symptoms usually occur over a period of time, sometimes during pregnancy, less commonly from an acute injury and can also result from a number of underlying medical disorders.
Q4: Is surgery the only way to treat peripheral nerve injury?
There are a number of ways to treat peripheral nerve injuries. Surgical decompression is often necessary but there are cases where a cortisone injection, proper splinting or activity modification and some form of occupational or physical therapy may be helpful. Certain traumatic injuries may require surgical repair or even nerve transfers. The causes can vary widely and treatments should be decided on a case by case basis.
Dr. Joseph Feinberg is Physiatrist-in-Chief and specializes in brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries and disorders. He is Co-Medical Director at Center for Brachial Plexus and Traumatic Nerve Injury. He is currently the team physician for St. Peters College. Dr. Feinberg is the editor of a book titled Peripheral Nerve Injuries in the Athlete, published by Human Kinetics. Dr. Feinberg is part of a medical team called F.O.C.O.S. (Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine) that travels to Ghana to treat patients with orthopaedic and neurological disorders.