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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Treatment

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment occurs when the ulnar nerve becomes compressed. Anatomically, the ulnar nerve passes through a tunnel (cubital tunnel) behind the inside of the elbow. The nerve can be felt through the skin at the elbow point, commonly called the “funny bone”. When the ulnar nerve goes into the hand, it travels through another tunnel (Guyon’s canal). The ulnar nerve provides sensation to the pinky and half of the ring finger and controls most of the hand muscles that help with subtle movements.

man receiving physical therapy

Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

  • Numbness and tingling in the ring and little finger are commonly associated with this condition (may become worse when the elbow is bent – such as when driving or talking on the phone).
  • Weakness in grip strength and difficulty with finger coordination (such as typing or playing an instrument).

Causes

Cubital tunnel syndrome results when the elbow is repetitively bent, and it places continuous stress on the ulnar nerve. It may also result from steady pressure on the elbow’s bony part, such as leaning the elbow on a hard surface.

Diagnosis

A physical examination of the arm is performed to check the nerve and determine where the nerve is compressed. If the nerve is irritated due to compression, tapping over the nerve at the “funny bone” can cause a shock into the little and ring fingers. Nerve tests will then be recommended to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Unless symptoms are severe or there is muscle weakness, nonsurgical treatment is recommended and may include:

  • Minimize the use of the arm with the elbow in a bent position.
  • Refrain from leaning on the elbow or putting pressure on the inside of the arm.
  • Maintaining the elbow in a straight position while sleeping.

If conservative treatment fails to provide relief or muscle weakness persists, surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve may be recommended.

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