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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

The ulnar nerve provides feeling to the little finger and part of the ring finger. It also controls muscles in the hand that help with fine motor movements as well as some muscles in the forearm that help you grip. Ulnar nerve entrapment, also called cubital tunnel syndrome, occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm becomes compressed or irritated. 

What causes Ulnar Nerve Entrapment?

The exact cause of ulnar nerve entrapment is unknown. But pressure on the nerve can come from a number of sources:

  • Fluid buildup in the elbow
  • A direct blow to the “funny bone” on the elbow
  • Extended periods of leaning on the elbow
  • Shifting or stretching of the nerve when the elbow is bent

How do you know you have Ulnar Nerve Entrapment?

The most common symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment are:

  • Pain on the inside of the elbow
  • Wrist and hand weakness
  • Tingling or numbness in the forearm or fingers
  • Popping or snapping sensation on the inside part of the elbow
  • Muscle atrophy in the hand

How does OSI fix Ulnar Nerve Entrapment?

OSI’s upper extremity team, specialists in elbow pain and injury,  will listen to your concerns and examine you for signs and symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment. Your OSI orthopedic specialist may recommend some or all of the following:

  • Physical exam. Your orthopedic specialist will perform a thorough examination of your arm to determine the extent of compression. Your OSI doctor may also check the hand, fingers, neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist to see if symptoms result from different positioning of these areas.
  • X-rays. X-rays may be taken to see if bone spurs or arthritis might be the source of nerve compression.
  • Nerve conduction studies. OSI specialists use these tests to assess nerve function and help identify the location of nerve compression.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Unless compression of the ulnar nerve has resulted in extensive muscle wasting, OSI orthopedic experts generally recommend nonsurgical treatments for ulnar nerve entrapment first to include some or all of the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Bracing or splinting
  • Nerve gliding exercises

Surgical Treatment

To take the pressure off of the ulnar nerve, surgical treatment may be considered when:

  • Nonsurgical methods do not yield the desired results
  • Muscle weakness or damage is present
  • Compression of the ulnar nerve is severe

Ulnar nerve procedures your OSI specialist may suggest include:

  • Cubital tunnel release
  • Ulnar nerve transposition
  • Medial epicondylectomy