Ulnar Nerve Neuropathy
Many different activities can result in ulnar nerve neuropathy.
Neuropathy is any disease condition of the nervous system. The ulnar nerve is the longest unprotected nerve in the human body; it is not shielded by bones or muscles as most other nerves are. This nerve runs from the neck, all the way down the arm, and is responsible for sensation in the fourth and fifth fingers of the hand, the palm of the hand and the underside of the forearm.
This sensitive nerve can become damaged from repetitive jarring motions. Individuals who work with jackhammers or other hydraulic equipment, and even long-distance cyclists and baseball pitchers can be at risk for developing this condition. When the ulnar nerve becomes compressed or “pinched” near the elbow, it is said to be “entrapped.”
Patients with this condition report symptoms of weakness or tenderness in the hand, tingling in the palm and fourth and fifth fingers, sensitivity to cold and tenderness in the elbow joint. Sometimes these symptoms will resolve on their own, but often, if the damage is more severe or the activities causing it are ongoing, medical intervention may be required.
A thorough examination by a specialist trained to heal the hands, arms and upper extremities of the body is the best person to diagnose this condition. The orthopedic doctor will examine the arm and hand, possibly tapping lightly on the ulnar nerve to determine sensitivity. She will take a detailed account of when the condition began and how it has progressed. Other tests may be ordered such as X-Rays, MRI or Nerve Conduction Velocity tests.
Often, Ulnar Neuropathy or Ulnar Nerve Entrapment can be treated through minimally-invasive methods. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed, and corticosteroid injections may be considered. Bracing or splinting, especially at night, may be undertaken. Occupational therapy exercises, when done faithfully, will help to rebuild flexibility and strength.
Occasionally, the condition is more serious and Cubital Tunnel surgery is required. Surgery is typically done on an out-patient basis, and the patient can go home that same day. In this situation, the cubital tunnel is cut to allow more space for the ulnar nerve. Splinting of the arm will be required for several weeks, and occupational therapy with home follow-up exercises will be utilized.
If ulnar neuropathy goes untreated, complications can result:
- Partial or complete loss of feeling in the hands or fingers
- Partial or complete loss of hand or wrist movement
- Chronic pain
- Emotional depression stemming from the pain or lack of ability to engage in sports or other life activities
If you or someone you know is experiencing tingling, numbness or pain in the hand, arm, wrists or shoulder, contact Dr. Rehman . She is a specialist in treating disorders, conditions and injuries related to the upper extremities, and will conduct a thorough evaluation and design a comprehensive plan to return you to full functionality. Her team of experienced hand therapists will follow up with exercises and other treatment modalities for a return to full strength and range of motion. Don’t endure pain for even one more day – contact Dr. Rehman today!