Compression Of the Ulnar Nerve

Do you experience pain and pins and needs in you little finger? Do you struggle to use you little finger? Does the pain or pins and needles sensation get worse at night or when you rest your elbow on a table or ride your bike? You may have a compression injury to your ulnar nerve.

The ulnar nerve is a nerve that originates from your spine in the neck at C7-T1. It travels all the way from your neck down your arm down to your hand and fingers. Specifically, the outside of the ring finger and the little finger. This nerve supplies sensation and motor control to enable your hand and arm to work effectively.

This nerve has a specific pathway through the arm and it goes through different canals which can easily be compressed. When these different areas are compressed the most common symptom occurs which is pain, numbness or ‘pins and needles.’ The type of injury can be determined depending on where the nerve is compressed. The different injuries are mentioned below:

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome:

A common saying is ‘Ouch I hit my funny bone!’ When we say this we generally experience an odd tingling feeling that runs down the length of our forearm to our hand. When this occurs it generally means we have hit our ulnar nerve. This nerve runs down our upper arm to the base of the elbow through the cubital tunnel all the way to the hand. At the cubital tunnel/base of the elbow there is high risk of injury or compression as the nerve is so close to the skin. When the ulnar nerve is compressed at this area it results in Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.

Compression of the ulnar nerve can be caused from external or internal forces being supplied to the area. External factors include leaning on elbow for long periods of time or a direct blow to the area. Internal factors include constant elbow flexion, causing the cubital tunnel to compress the nerve repeatedly or overuse may cause fluid build-up which can also contribute to nerve compression.

Common symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome include:

  • Radiating elbow pain
  • Loss of sensation to the ring and little finger
  • Ring and little finger weakness
  • Loss of grip strength

Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome:

Another compression syndrome of the ulnar nerve includes ulnar tunnel syndrome. It is also known as Guyon’s Cannel syndrome or ‘cyclists’ palsy’. It is caused by an entrapment of the ulnar nerve in the Guyon’s canal as it passes through the wrist. Ulnar tunnel syndrome is commonly seen in cyclists due to prolonged pressure at the wrist joint when leaning on the handle bars. Symptoms generally include pain and pins and needles of the ring and little finger. Rarely will motor input be affected however the muscles of the hand and fingers can be impacted.

Both Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome have a common sign that is demonstrated within the fingers. This sign is called ‘claw hand’. This is where the ring and little finger are noticeably bent or curved. The term claw hand derives from the fingers looking like a bear’s claw. The condition generally occurs when the muscles of the hand are impacted due to lack of motor input and control leading them to become weak.

It is vital to get these injuries treated as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage.  If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above do not hesitate to contact us! At Specialists On Hand we offer a wide range of diagnostic and treatment regimens to help you with your recovery and getting you back to what you enjoy doing the most!