Chiropractor Chandler AZ

Saturday Night Palsy Treatment & Recovery

With a name like "Saturday Night Palsy" you would think it's a drink or a new party game, not a medical condition, but it is. At least once in your life you've experienced waking up in the middle of the night with the tingling sensation of a "dead arm." You wait and shake and rub your arm to get the feeling back in your arm, but sometimes it can take a while for it to return to normal. Can you imagine if you were never able to shake that tingling feeling off? Well that's what it's like having Saturday Night Palsy.

What is Saturday Night Palsy

Experiencing the "dead arm" feeling is not an uncommon occurrence. You may think that some nerves in your arm are damaged and that's what's causing the sensation, but nerve damage or irritation occurs when one or all three of the upper arm nerves have been compressed for a long period of time. When the nerves of your arm are compressed, it disrupts the signal the nerves send down into your arms in order to give you that sense of touch. When these signals get interrupted, it can lead to feelings of numbness, weakness, and the pins and needles feelings. This damage to a nerve is referred to as a palsy and the one of the most common types is Radial Nerve Palsy, commonly known as Saturday Night Palsy.

woman painful wrist

Just like the name suggests, Saturday Night Palsy occurs after someone falls asleep with their arm stretched out after an extreme amount of drug or alcohol use. Alcohol and drugs block normal pain sensors so this person doesn't move or shift positions as they sleep. Without movement, it results in prolonged compression of the radial nerve where it passes under the humerus on the back of the arm. Nerves are soft and fragile and compression against a hard surface can cause damage. When the person wakes up in the morning, they find that they can extend their elbow, but they have difficulty extending their wrist and fingers. Since the radial nerve extends behind the humeral head, down the arm, and branches out to the wrist and finger extensor muscles, the wrist and fingers are the most affected. The level of damage and severity of the injury depends on how long and how hard the nerve was compressed. Some people can wake up and have the sensation last only a few minutes, while others deal with the soreness and weakness for months. Saturday Night Palsy isn't usually painful, but the weakness can be scary.

Treatment for Saturday Night Palsy

Physiotherapy treatments for Saturday Night Palsy will look to do a number of things:

  • Offload the radial nerve
    • Inflammation and irritation will be decreased
    • Risk of continued damage to the nerve will be reduced
    • Usually done by wearing a splint. Night splints are very important for decompression of the nerve as we are less aware of our posture while we sleep
  • Prevention of secondary issues
    • Elbow and shoulder movements will be reduced during healing
    • Muscle weakness can sometimes occur in unaffected muscles, but treatment will help prevent that
  • Improvement of strength, joint range of motion and sensation
    • Strengthening exercises for upper limbs
    • Exercises for fine motor skills and dexterity
  • Appropriate healing
    • Massage therapy is great for soft tissue repair around the nerve
    • Hand, wrist, arm, and shoulder mobilization will be increased
    • Nerve sensory stimulation will return to normal
Conservative Treatment
scar tissue and graston technique

Treatment for nerve entrapment mainly focuses on decompression. If you fell asleep on a wooden chair or a different hard surface, the severe damage caused to the nerve can produce bruising and tissue damage to the region of the spinal groove. Some techniques such as Graston Technique, Active Release Technique, massage therapy, and manual therapy decrease muscle spasms, myofascial adhesions, and enhance muscular healing. Class IV cold lasers or low level laser therapy are additional treatments for accelerating nerve regeneration and healing. Cold laser therapy increases cellular repair and decreases the inflammation around the damaged nerve to speed your recovery.

In most cases, people will fully recover from Saturday Night Palsy, but that full recovery can take weeks, sometimes up to months. If you've woken up from a night out and are feeling the tingling symptoms in your arm, it's best to seek treatment right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the better it is for your nerve palsy recovery. If you don't treat your nerve palsy in a timely manner, secondary complications can occur, such as joint rigidity.

Our Chandler Chiropractic & Physical Therapy clinic treats patients with a variety of muscle, tendon, joint, and ligament injuries. The clinic provides treatment for runners, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors in addition to common headache, neck, and back patients traditionally seen in Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Massage Therapy clinics. We work with all ages and abilities of the residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler AZ.