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A nerve release is a surgical technique that may be used with nerve compression injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome and tarsal tunnel syndrome.


Operative technique for common peroneal nerve release (at knee). A. The fibrous edge of the peroneus longus tendon (structure connecting muscle to bone) is divided, its muscle retracted. The fibrous edge of the extensor digitorum longus muscle is divided to release the common peroneal nerve and its superficial and deep divisions. B. An internal neurolysis (destruction of nerve tissue) is done. Illustrations from Surgery of the Peripheral Nerve by Mackinnon and Dellon, reprinted with permission of Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.

Compression injuries result from muscles or fascia (connective tissue) in the arms or legs becoming tighter than usual and squeezing the nerve. These conditions can cause tingling, numbness, pain or even paralysis. Like a ring that is too tight on your finger, causing tingling and numbness until it is removed, these points of compression do similar damage to nerves.

To treat compression injuries, surgeons will cut the band or remove the region of constriction that is compressing the nerve. As happens when removing the ring, there is often some immediate relief of symptoms. With nerve compression, though, recovery may continue over the next several months.

Additionally, we believe that such areas of compression can impede regeneration after severe nerve injuries. As the nerve grows back past these known “tight spots” in the arm or leg, some axons may get “hung up,” or impeded from continuing their journey to the paralyzed muscle. This often produces a Tinel’s sign, which is a “funny bone”-like tingling at these compression points when the area is tapped. If recovery has slowed and these signs have developed, we believe that a nerve release provides the best chance for further recovery.

See carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome.

Your surgeon will select tendon transfer, nerve tranfer, nerve graft, nerve release or other treatment based on your condition and which technique offers the best chance of recovery.