Ulnar neuropathy is a condition in which the ulnar nerve that runs down the length of the arm becomes compressed (entrapped) and/or irritated. The most common sites for entrapment are the elbow first and the wrist next. Nerve entrapment can result when the nerve becomes inflamed due to repetitive stress on the nerve that occurs in cyclists or typists. A broken elbow or fracture can also put pressure on the nerve. Neurological symptoms resulting from the trapped nerve include weakness, numbness, muscle wasting (atrophy), pain and pins-and-needles sensation in portions of the lower arm controlled by the ulnar nerve (especially the little and ring fingers). Neuropathy refers to injury to the nerve. The ulnar nerve is also known as the funny bone nerve in the region of the elbow, along with other names including bicycler’s neuropathy, cubital tunnel syndrome and tardy ulnar palsy.
Since ulnar neuropathy takes a while to develop into the stage where the disease is noticeable, the occurrence of it is usually in middle-aged and older adults than in children. The onset of the symptoms of ulnar neuropathy can be damaging to patients in that they could lose the use of an arm.
An exam of the hand and wrist can reveal ulnar nerve dysfunction. Signs may include:
The goal of treatment is to allow patients to use the hand and arm as much as possible. The cause should be identified and treated. Sometimes, no treatment is required, and patients will get better on their own.
Treatments may include: