UAMS Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences - Nerves of the Upper Limb

Gross Anatomy


Nerves of the Upper Limb - Listed Alphabetically

Nerve Source Branches Motor Sensory Notes
accessory cranial root: medulla - nucleus ambiguus; spinal root: spinal nucleus of the upper cervical spinal cord no named branches GSE: sternocleidomastoid and trapezius mm. none also known as: CN XI, 11th cranial nerve; spinal root enters cranial cavity by passing through the foramen magnum; exits skull by passing through the jugular foramen; accessory n. is motor only; the subtrapezial plexus of nerves receives proprioceptive fibers: for the sternocleidomastoid m. from the ventral primary rami of spinal nn. C2 and C3 - for trapezius via ventral primary rami of C3 and C4
antebrachial cutaneous, lateral musculocutaneous n. anterior and posterior branches none skin of the lateral side of the forearm lateral antebrachial cutaneous n. emerges from the lateral intermuscular interval between biceps and brachialis; it is the continuation of the musculocutaneous n.
antebrachial cutaneous, medial medial cord of the brachial plexus no named branches none skin of the medial side of the forearm medial antebrachial cutaneous nerve travels with the basilic vein for part of its course
antebrachial cutaneous, posterior radial n. inferior lateral brachial cutaneous n. none skin of the lateral distal arm and posterior forearm posterior antebrachial cutaneous n. passes posterior to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus
anterior interosseous n. median n. no named branches flexor pollicis longus m., radial half of flexor digitorum profundus m., pronator quadratus m. none courses along the anterior surface of the interosseous membrane
axillary n. posterior cord of the brachial plexus superior lateral brachial cutaneous nerve deltoid, teres minor skin of the upper lateral arm axillary n. is endangered by surgical neck fractures
brachial cutaneous, inferior lateral radial n. via its posterior antebrachial cutaneous be. no named branches none skin of the lateral side of the distal arm emerges at the lateral intermuscular septum just below the deltoid m.
brachial cutaneous, medial medial cord of the brachial plexus no named branches none skin of the medial side of the arm communicates with the intercostobrachial n.
brachial cutaneous, posterior radial no named branches none skin of the posterior arm emerges medial to the long head of the triceps brachii muscle
brachial plexus ventral primary rami of C5-8 and T1 dorsal scapular, long thoracic, n. to subclavius, suprascapular, lateral and medial pectoral, medial brachial and antebrachial cutaneous, upper, middle and lower subscapular, musculocutaneous, ulnar, median, axillary, radial muscles of the upper limb, excluding trapezius skin of the upper limb plexus is a latin word meaning "braid"; axons from spinal cord levels C5-T1 are mixed (braided) in the brachial plexus and repackaged into terminal branches so that each branch contains axons from several spinal cord segmental levels
C3 ventral primary ramus C3 spinal n. contributes to: inferior root of the ansa cervicalis, great auricular n., transverse cervical n., supraclavicular nn., phrenic n.; brs. to: longus capitis & colli, scalenus medius, levator scapulae, trapezius omohyoid, sternohyoid, sternothyroid, longus capitis & colli, scalenus medius, levator scapulae, respiratory diaphragm skin of the anterolateral neck; proprioception from the sternocleidomastoid m. and the trapezius m C3 contributes to the cervical plexus
C4 ventral primary ramus C4 spinal n. contributes to: supraclavicular nn., phrenic n.; brs. to: longus colli, scalenus medius, levator scapulae, trapezius longus colli, scalenus medius, levator scapulae, respiratory diaphragm skin of the root of the neck and the upper shoulder; proprioception from the trapezius m. C4 contributes to the cervical plexus
C5 ventral primary ramus C5 spinal n. contributes to: phrenic n., long thoracic n. respiratory diaphragm, scalene mm., muscles of the shoulder and upper arm skin of the ventral arm and ventral forearm joins the ventral primary ramus of C6 to form the superior trunk of the brachial plexus
C6 ventral primary ramus C6 spinal n. contributes to: long thoracic n. scalene mm., muscles of the lower shoulder and arm skin of the lateral side of the upper limb joins the ventral primary ramus of C5 to form the superior trunk of the brachial plexus
C7 ventral primary ramus C7 spinal n. contributes to: long thoracic n. muscles of the lower shoulder, arm forearm skin of the posterior side of the upper limb continues as the middle trunk of the brachial plexus
C8 ventral primary ramus C8 spinal n. no named branches muscles of the forearm and hand skin of the medial side of the upper limb joins the ventral primary ramus of T1 to form the inferior trunk of the brachial plexus
common palmar digital nn. median n.; superficial br. of the ulnar n. proper palmar digital nn. sympathetic motor to the skin; motor nn. to the 1st & 2nd lumbrical mm. are carried on common palmar digital brs. of the median n. skin of the palmar surfaces of the adjacent sides of two digits the proper branches of these nerves also supply the dorsum of the tip of the digit (nail bed)
deep radial n. radial n. posterior interosseous n. extensor carpi radialis brevis m., supinator m., extensor digitorum m., extensor digiti minimi m., abductor pollicis longus m., extensor pollicis longus m. extensor pollicis brevis m., extensor indicis m. no cutaneous branches deep radial n. passes through the supinator m.; some authors believe that the posterior interosseous n. and the deep radial n. are synonymous, others say that when the deep radial n. emerges from the supinator in the posterior forearm it becomes the posterior interosseous n., and others say that the deep radial n. does not become the posterior interosseous n. until after its last muscular br. has been given off
digital, common palmar median n.; superficial br. of the ulnar n. proper palmar digital nn. sympathetic motor to the skin; motor nn. to the 1st & 2nd lumbrical mm. are carried on common palmar digital brs. of the median n. skin of the palmar surfaces of the adjacent sides of two digits the proper branches of these nerves also supply the dorsum of the tip of the digit (nail bed)
digital, dorsal radial n. no named branches sympathetic motor innervation to skin dorsal skin of the lateral 3 1/2 digits, except the nail bed the nail bed is supplied by palmar digital nn.
digital, proper palmar common palmar digital branches of the median n.; common palmar digital branches of the superficial br. of the ulnar n. no named branches sympathetic motor to the skin median: palmar skin and nail bed of digits 1-3 and the lateral side of 4th digit; ulnar: palmar and dorsal skin on medial side of the 4th digit and all of the 5th digit proper palmar digital nn. supply the dorsum of the tip of the digit (nail bed)
dorsal branch of the ulnar n. ulnar n. dorsal digital sympathetic motor innervation to skin skin of the dorsal surface of the medial 1 1/2 digits; skin of the medial side of the back of the hand dorsal branch of the ulnar n. emerges at the level of the ulnar styloid process
dorsal digital n. radial n. no named branches sympathetic motor innervation to skin dorsal skin of the lateral 3 1/2 digits, except the nail bed the nail bed is supplied by palmar digital nn.
dorsal scapular n. brachial plexus (br. of C5 ventral primary ramus) no named branches rhomboideus major and minor mm.; levator scapulae m. none dorsal scapular n. passes through the scalenus medius m.
inferior lateral brachial cutaneous n. radial n. via its posterior antebrachial cutaneous be. no named branches none skin of the lateral side of the distal arm emerges at the lateral intermuscular septum just below the deltoid m.
intercostobrachial n. also known as the lateral cutaneous br. of the ventral primary ramus of T2 no named branches sympathetic motor innervation to skin skin of the medial side of the arm intercostobrachial n. communicates with the medial brachial cutaneous nerve
intermediate supraclavicular n. cervical plexus (C3&C4) no named branches none skin of the root of the neck and upper chest, near the mid-clavicle pain from respiratory diaphragm is referred to the shoulder
interosseous, anterior median n. no named branches flexor pollicis longus m., radial half of flexor digitorum profundus m., pronator quadratus m. none courses along the anterior surface of the interosseous membrane
interosseous, posterior deep radial n. no named branches some authors say none, others say the deep posterior forearm muscles none there is variability in the definition of this nerve; for some, deep radial and posterior interosseous are synonymous; others define this nerve as the articular br. to the wrist from the deep radial
lateral antebrachial cutaneous musculocutaneous n. anterior and posterior branches none skin of the lateral side of the forearm lateral antebrachial cutaneous n. emerges from the lateral intermuscular interval between biceps and brachialis; it is the continuation of the musculocutaneous n.
lateral pectoral n. lateral cord of the brachial plexus no named branches pectoralis major m. no cutaneous branches lateral pectoral n. communicates with the medial pectoral n. anterior to the axillary a.; it pierces the clavipectoral fascia
lateral supraclavicular n. cervical plexus (C3&C4) no named branches none skin of the root of the neck and upper shoulder pain from respiratory diaphragm is referred to the shoulder
long thoracic n. brachial plexus (ventral primary rami of spinal nerves C5-C7) no named branches serratus anterior m. no cutaneous branches located on the superficial surface of the serratus anterior m.; lesion of this nerve causes scapular winging, hence the saying "C5, 6, & 7 keep the wings from heaven"
lower subscapular n. posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C5, C6) unnamed muscular brs. subscapularis m., teres major m. no cutaneous branches subscapularis and teres minor are antagonists (medial rotation vs. lateral rotation of the humerus)
medial antebrachial cutaneous n. medial cord of the brachial plexus no named branches none skin of the medial side of the forearm medial antebrachial cutaneous nerve travels with the basilic vein for part of its course
medial brachial cutaneous n. medial cord of the brachial plexus no named branches none skin of the medial side of the arm communicates with the intercostobrachial n.
medial pectoral n. medial cord of the brachial plexus no named branches pectoralis minor m., pectoralis major m. no cutaneous branches medial pectoral n. communicates with the lateral pectoral n. anterior to the axillary a.; it pierces the pectoralis minor m.
medial supraclavicular n. cervical plexus (C3&C4) no named branches none skin of the root of the neck and upper chest, anteriorly pain from respiratory diaphragm is referred to the shoulder
median n. lateral and medial cords of the brachial plexus anterior interosseous n., palmar br., recurrent (motor) br., common palmar digital nn. (for digits 1-3) pronator teres m., flexor carpi radialis m., palmaris longus m., flexor digitorum superficialis m., flexor digitorum profundus m. (radial half), flexor pollicis longus m., pronator quadratus m., abductor pollicis brevis m., flexor pollicis brevis m., opponens pollicis m., lateral 2 lumbrical mm. skin of the radial half of the palm and palmar side of the lateral 3 1/2 digits (and nail bed for these digits) the median n. is motor to the flexor muscles of the forearm (except flexor carpi ulnaris and the medial 1/2 of the flexor digitorum profundus),the muscles of the thenar compartment and the lateral 2 lumbricals
middle subscapular n. posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C7, C8) unnamed muscular brs. latissimus dorsi m. no cutaneous branches also called the thoracodorsal n.
musculocutaneous n. lateral cord of the brachial plexus lateral antebrachial cutaneous n. coracobrachialis m., biceps brachii m., brachialis m. skin of the lateral side of the forearm musculocutaneous n. passes through the coracobrachialis m.
palmar digital, common median n.; superficial br. of the ulnar n. proper palmar digital nn. sympathetic motor to the skin; motor nn. to the 1st & 2nd lumbrical mm. are carried on common palmar digital brs. of the median n. skin of the palmar surfaces of the adjacent sides of two digits the proper branches of these nerves also supply the dorsum of the tip of the digit (nail bed)
palmar digital, proper common palmar digital branches of the median n.; common palmar digital branches of the superficial br. of the ulnar n. no named branches sympathetic motor to the skin median: palmar skin and nail bed of digits 1-3 and the lateral side of 4th digit; ulnar: palmar and dorsal skin on medial side of the 4th digit and all of the 5th digit proper palmar digital nn. supply the dorsum of the tip of the digit (nail bed)
pectoral, lateral lateral cord of the brachial plexus no named branches pectoralis major m. no cutaneous branches lateral pectoral n. communicates with the medial pectoral n. anterior to the axillary a.; it pierces the clavipectoral fascia
pectoral, medial medial cord of the brachial plexus no named branches pectoralis minor m., pectoralis major m. no cutaneous branches medial pectoral n. communicates with the lateral pectoral n. anterior to the axillary a.; it pierces the pectoralis minor m.
plexus, brachial ventral primary rami of C5-8 and T1 dorsal scapular, long thoracic, n. to subclavius, suprascapular, lateral and medial pectoral, medial brachial and antebrachial cutaneous, upper, middle and lower subscapular, musculocutaneous, ulnar, median, axillary, radial muscles of the upper limb, excluding trapezius skin of the upper limb plexus is a latin word meaning "braid"; axons from spinal cord levels C5-T1 are mixed (braided) in the brachial plexus and repackaged into terminal branches so that each branch contains axons from several spinal cord segmental levels
posterior antebrachial cutaneous n. radial n. inferior lateral brachial cutaneous n. none skin of the lateral distal arm and posterior forearm posterior antebrachial cutaneous n. passes posterior to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus
posterior brachial cutaneous n. radial no named branches none skin of the posterior arm emerges medial to the long head of the triceps brachii muscle
proper palmar digital nn. common palmar digital branches of the median n.; common palmar digital branches of the superficial br. of the ulnar n. no named branches sympathetic motor to the skin median: palmar skin and nail bed of digits 1-3 and the lateral side of 4th digit; ulnar: palmar and dorsal skin on medial side of the 4th digit and all of the 5th digit proper palmar digital nn. supply the dorsum of the tip of the digit (nail bed)
radial n. posterior cord of the brachial plexus posterior brachial cutaneous n., inferior lateral brachial cutaneous n., posterior antebrachial cutaneous n., superficial and deep brs. muscles of the posterior arm: triceps brachii m., anconeus m.; muscles of the posterior forearm: brachioradialis, extensor carpi ulnaris m., extensor carpi radialis longus m., extensor carpi radialis brevis m., extensor digitorum m., extensor digiti minimi m., supinator m., abductor pollicis longus m., extensor pollicis longus m., extensor pollicis brevis m., extensor indicis m. skin of the posterior arm, forearm and hand all of the muscles on the posterior side of the arm and forearm are innervated by the radial n.
radial, deep radial n. posterior interosseous n. extensor carpi radialis brevis m., supinator m., extensor digitorum m., extensor digiti minimi m., abductor pollicis longus m., extensor pollicis longus m. extensor pollicis brevis m., extensor indicis m. no cutaneous branches deep radial n. passes through the supinator m.; some authors believe that the posterior interosseous n. and the deep radial n. are synonymous, others say that when the deep radial n. emerges from the supinator in the posterior forearm it becomes the posterior interosseous n., and others say that the deep radial n. does not become the posterior interosseous n. until after its last muscular br. has been given off
radial, superficial radial n. dorsal digital brs. sympathetic motor for the skin skin of the posterolateral wrist and hand; dorsum of the lateral 3 1/2 digits (excluding the skin over the distal phalanx/nail bed) superficial radial n. is located deep to the brachioradialis muscle
subclavius m., n. to superior trunk of the brachial plexus no named branches subclavius m. no cutaneous branches nerve to subclavius m. is one of two nerves to arise from the superior trunk of the brachial plexus; suprascapular n. is the other one
subscapular, lower posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C5, C6) unnamed muscular brs. subscapularis m., teres major m. no cutaneous branches subscapularis and teres minor are antagonists (medial rotation vs. lateral rotation of the humerus)
subscapular, middle posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C7, C8) unnamed muscular brs. latissimus dorsi m. no cutaneous branches also called the thoracodorsal n.
subscapular, upper posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C5, C6) unnamed muscular brs. subscapularis m. no cutaneous branches mesenchyme that forms the subscapularis is derived from somites C5 and C6
superficial radial n. radial n. dorsal digital brs. sympathetic motor for the skin skin of the posterolateral wrist and hand; dorsum of the lateral 3 1/2 digits (excluding the skin over the distal phalanx/nail bed) superficial radial n. is located deep to the brachioradialis muscle
superior lateral brachial cutaneous axillary no named branches none skin of the lateral side of the proximal arm emerges at the posterior edge of the deltoid muscle
supraclavicular, intermediate cervical plexus (C3&C4) no named branches none skin of the root of the neck and upper chest, near the mid-clavicle pain from respiratory diaphragm is referred to the shoulder
supraclavicular, lateral cervical plexus (C3&C4) no named branches none skin of the root of the neck and upper shoulder pain from respiratory diaphragm is referred to the shoulder
supraclavicular, medial cervical plexus (C3&C4) no named branches none skin of the root of the neck and upper chest, anteriorly pain from respiratory diaphragm is referred to the shoulder
suprascapular n. superior trunk of the brachial plexus (C5-C6) no named branches supraspinatus m., infraspinatus m. no cutaneous branches suprascapular n. passes through the suprascapular notch inferior to the superior transverse scapular ligament
T1 ventral primary ramus spinal nerve T1 joins the ventral primary ramus of C8 to form the inferior trunk of the brachial plexus muscles of the forearm and hand skin of the ventral arm and ventral forearm T1 is the highest spinal nerve to have a white ramus communicans
thoracodorsal n. posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C7, C8) unnamed muscular brs. latissimus dorsi m. no cutaneous branches also called the middle subscapular n.
to subclavius m. superior trunk of the brachial plexus no named branches subclavius m. no cutaneous branches nerve to subclavius m. is one of two nerves to arise from the superior trunk of the brachial plexus; suprascapular n. is the other one
transverse cervical n. cervical plexus (C2 and C3) no named branches none skin of the anterior surface of the neck transverse cervical n. penetrates the platysma m. but does not innervate it
ulnar n. medial cord of the brachial plexus (C8, T1) palmar cutaneous br., dorsal br., superficial and deep brs. flexor carpi ulnaris m., flexor digitorum profundus m. (ulnar half), abductor digiti minimi m., flexor digiti minimi brevis m., opponens digiti minimi m., ulnar 2 lumbrical mm., palmar and dorsal interosseous mm. skin of the medial side of the wrist and hand; skin of the medial 1 1/2 digits ulnar n. is motor to most of the muscles of the hand
upper subscapular n. posterior cord of the brachial plexus (C5, C6) unnamed muscular brs. subscapularis m. no cutaneous branches mesenchyme that forms the subscapularis is derived from somites C5 and C6


Some of the material presented in these tables is contained in the book:
MedCharts Anatomy by Thomas R. Gest and Jaye Schlesinger
Published by ILOC, Inc., New York. Copyright 1995.

The content of these tables has been edited for use in this course by Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D.
Copyright 2009, Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Unauthorized use is prohibited.




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