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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment or Ulnar Nerve Compression

Ulnar nerve dysfunction, ulnar nerve entrapment or ulnar nerve compression is a problem with the nerve, called the ulnar nerve, that travels from the wrist to the shoulder, which leads to movement or sensation problems in the wrist and hand.

Ulnar nerve damaged in a bone fracture 

The ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in the arm. It travels from under the collarbone and along the inside of the upper arm. It passes through a tunnel of tissue (the cubital tunnel) behind the inside of the elbow. Here you can feel the nerve through the skin. It is commonly called the " funny bone. "

Causes of Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

Ulnar nerve dysfunction occurs when there is damage to the ulnar nerve, which travels down the arm. The ulnar nerve is near the surface of the body where it crosses the elbow, so long-term pressure on the elbow may cause damage. In an ulnar nerve entrapment or ulnar nerve copression, the ulnar nerve becomes trapped or pinched due to some physiological abnormalities.

Causes of ulnar nerve compression include:

  • Prior fractures or dislocation of the elbow
  • Bone spurs
  • Swelling of the elbow joint
  • Cysts
  • Prolonged pressure on the base of the palm

 

Symptoms of Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

  • Abnormal sensations in the 4th or 5th fingers, usually on the palm side
  • Numbness, decreased sensation
  • Pain
  • Tingling, burning sensation
  • Weakness of the hand

Pain or numbness may awaken you from sleep. Activities such as tennis or golf make the condition worse.

If the nerve is very compressed or has been compressed for a long time, muscle wasting in the hand can occur. Once this happens, muscle wasting cannot be reversed. For this reason, it is important to see the doctor as soon as any of the symptoms are noticed.

Ulnar nerve compression treatment

Non-surgical treatments for ulnar nerve dysfunction may include:

  • A supportive splint or elbow pad to help prevent further injury
  • Corticosteroids injected into the area to reduce swelling and pressure on the nerve
  • Physical therapy or exercises to help the nerve slide through the tunnels can improve the symptoms and maintain muscle strength
  • Over-the-counter analgesics or prescription pain medications to control pain (neuralgia)
  • Other medications to reduce stabbing pains.
  • Occupational counseling or occupational therapy

Surgical treatment for ulnar nerve dysfunction:

If non-surgical treatments listed above do not help improve the condition; if the nerve is very compressed; or if there is muscle wasting, the doctor may recommend an ulnar nerve decompression surgery to take pressure off of the nerve. Most often, the surgery is done around the elbow, but it can be done at the wrist, if that is the place of the compression. Sometimes, the nerve is compressed in both places, so surgery is done at both the elbow and the wrist.

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