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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment at Elbow

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The elbow is subject to various pain-causing conditions. Among them, a pinched nerve near the elbow joint can lead to discomfort, weakness and further complications. Ulnar nerve entrapment, or cubital tunnel syndrome, occurs when the ulnar nerve becomes constricted and irritated, causing pain, tingling and other symptoms. Under most circumstances the condition is successfully treated with conservative measures, but surgery may be required to prevent further damage.

Cause

The ulnar nerve is vulnerable to compression as it passes through the cubital tunnel and runs close to the surface, near the elbow. Nerve constriction and damage are responsible for pain associated with the condition, but the cause of nerve entrapment isn’t always known.

It is thought those with a history of fractures and bone spurs may be at higher risk for developing constricted arm nerves, and certain activities are known contributors to the condition. Athletic and occupational use, for example, may lead to ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow – particularly when the joint is bent or held in the same position for extended periods of time. Bicyclists sometimes experience ulnar nerve constriction at both the elbow and wrist. And an acute sports injury to the elbow can cause damage leading to constriction. Every day causes may include sleeping with a bent, fixed elbow.

Description

Sharing responsibility for fine motor control, grip, and feeling in the fingers, the ulnar nerve traces a path from the neck to the hand. It runs along the inside of the elbow, forming the “funny bone” at the point where it passes under the medial epicondyle. The nerve can become pinched and irritated at the wrist or beneath the collarbone, but ulnar nerve constriction most frequently occurs at the elbow joint. Because it is involved with feeling in the little finger and index finger, ulnar nerve entrapment causes pain on the outside of the arm, as well as the elbow.

Symptoms

Ulnar nerve entrapment, also known as cubital tunnel syndrome, is a constricted arm nerve at the elbow, presenting the following symptoms:

  • Aching pain on inside of elbow
  • Numbness and tingling in ring finger and little finger
  • May experience weakened grip
  • May experience difficulty moving fingers or manipulating objects
  • May experience difficulty with finger coordination
  • Rare but serious muscle loss in hand can occur

Schedule your appointment at Fox Valley Orthopedics today by calling (630) 584-1400.

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