Nerves carry messages to and from the brain to the rest of the body. Nerves are the “electrical wiring” in the body. Every nerve in the body has a little bit of electricity running through all the time, even at rest.
Structurally, nerves are similar to cable wire wrapped in insulation. Each nerve contains millions of fibers, (axons), which are grouped into bundles. The bundles are surrounded by insulation similar to that on the outside of the nerve and are grouped together to make a nerve.
There are two types of nerves:
- Motor nerve carry messages between the brain and muscle to make the body move.
- Sensory nerves carry messages about different things like temperature, pressure and whether something feels soft or tough.
When nerves become damaged, they no longer fully perform these functions.
Each hand has three major nerves – the median, ulnar, and radial nerves – as well as almost four dozen separate motor and sensory branches. Each nerve or nerve branch serves as the message pathway between a specific part of the hand and the brain.
Causes of Nerve Injuries
Nerves can be damaged by too much pressure, by being over-stretched, or by a cut.
- Tingling or "pins and needles" sensation
- "Burning" or "toothache" type pain
- Complete loss of sensation (numbness) in a very specific area
- "Electrical shocks" traveling to or from the area
If the injury is due to a cut, surgery will be needed to repair the nerve. Surgery involves sewing the ends of the nerve back together. The nerve will need to be protected as it heals. You may have a splint for three weeks to prevent stretching the repair.
A hand therapist can provide exercises, splinting, education and strategies for managing symptoms as the nerve heals.