What is the ulnar nerve?
The ulnar nerve is a branch of the brachial plexus nerve system. With help from the median nerve, the ulnar nerve provides sensation to the flexor muscles of the hands and feet, allowing for bending.
What is ulnar nerve entrapment?
Ulnar nerve neuropathy due to ulnar nerve entrapment is often a painful disorder of the outer side of the arm and hand near the little finger, caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve in your arm.
Causes of ulnar nerve entrapment
Ulnar nerve neuropathy can be a condition of nerve entrapment. The ulnar nerve can be constricted as it passes through the wrist or elbow. The ulnar nerve transmits electrical signals to muscles in the forearm and hand. The nerve is responsible for sensation in the fourth and fifth fingers of the hand, the palm, and the underside of the forearm. Ulnar neuropathy can also be called:
- Bicycler’s neuropathy
- Cubital tunnel syndrome
- Guyon or Guyon’s canal syndrome
- Tardy ulnar palsy
Symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment
Symptoms of ulnar nerve neuropathy may include:
- Weakness or tenderness in the hand
- Tingling in the palm and fourth and fifth fingers
- Sensitivity to cold
- Tenderness in the elbow joint
Diagnosis of ulnar nerve entrapment
Proper diagnosis of ulnar nerve entrapment requires the expert attention of an experienced physician who will determine if the symptom is primary — meaning a stand-alone condition — or if it is secondary, arising out of a more complicated disease like diabetes. Diagnosis will include:
- A comprehensive clinical exam. Your doctor will ask you to perform certain tasks with your hands so he or she can determine if ulnar nerve entrapment is a possible diagnosis for your pain.
- Complete medical history
- Electro diagnostic studies (EMG) to study nerve conduction within your hands and wrists
Treatment for ulnar nerve entrapment:
Nonsurgical treatment for ulnar nerve entrapment
Depending on the severity of your ulnar nerve entrapment, your physician may recommend the following:
- Occupational therapy to strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the hands and elbows
- The daily use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonprescription pain relievers to help reduce pain and inflammation
- Wearing splints to help immobilize the elbow
Your doctor may recommend surgery to treat your ulnar nerve neuropathy. Learn more about nerve entrapment surgery.
Surgery for ulnar nerve entrapment
When physical therapy and other forms of non-surgical treatment fail, nerve entrapment surgery is the best option to restore function and alleviate pain.