Ulnar Nerve Compression
The ulnar nerve is an important nerve that runs from the collarbone and along the upper arm, through the cubital tunnel in the elbow and down into the hand's Guyon's canal. The nerve gives feeling to your ring and small finger, and assists many muscles in the hand and forearm. A regular complaint arises when the ulnar nerve becomes trapped between skin and bone, provoking the feeling that we call hitting our 'funny bone.' Compression or entrapment of the ulnar nerve is more serious than this and causes the nerve to lose functionality.
Symptoms of Ulnar Nerve Compression
Numbness or a feeling of sleepiness in the affected small and ring finger, particularly when moving and bending the elbow. This can be accompanied by a tingly feeling of 'pins and needles,' and these symptoms are likely to come and go. Pain or aches can be present on the inside of the elbow, and hand movements can be harder to achieve as the hand becomes weakened, such as gripping and effectively using objects. Difficulties with typing and other intricate hand activities are common. At an advanced stage of injury, muscle waste can begin in the hand. This is irreversible so it is important to see a doctor when encountering any of the above symptoms.
Causes of Ulnar Nerve Compression
The ulnar nerve can become compressed due to a single incident or accident, such as being struck directly on the elbow either by a projectile (e.g. ball or bat) or another competitor in a sports activity. Repetitive strain is another common cause and is often noted in golfers and bowlers (in activities like cricket or baseball) because these arm motions are repeated intensely. These sorts of motions can result in overuse that provokes the compression; you are especially at risk if you continue exercising with weakened muscles or for longer periods than your body can manage. Prior elbow dislocations or fractures can increase the chances of ulnar nerve compression, as can osteoarthritis or an unhealed arm injury.
Treatment for Ulnar Nerve Compression
See a doctor so that they can ascertain how the injury was caused and whether it is linked to any prior conditions. You should take a break from any strenuous physical activities until your symptoms have gone and the doctor permits you to return. Any contributing illnesses will be treated in a suitable way, and the rest of your treatment will be based on the cause of your specific compression. In the case of overuse, typical treatment involves a period of elbow immobilisation while the nerve recovers. Most instances of ulnar nerve compression will require a prescription of anti-inflammatory pain medication to combat aching and swelling. If the compression is very severe or linked to a serious condition then surgery might be necessary as a last resort.
Physical therapy is important for the recovery process; this will gradually build up strength in your hand and forearm that was lost during the period of injury.
Prevention of Ulnar Nerve Compression
Be responsible to avoid overuse, and keep pressure on the inside of the elbow to a minimum where feasible. For instance, leaning on the elbow or keeping the elbow bent for a long time is not recommended.
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