The ulnar nerve is one of three main nerves that provide feeling and function to the hand. It travels from the neck to your hand but can be constricted in several places. Ulnar tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve is constricted at the wrist.
What causes ulnar tunnel syndrome?
- A soft tissue tumor, usually a noncancerous (benign) cyst referred to as a ganglion cyst
- Repetitive trauma, such as the repetitive use of a jackhammer
- Chronic pressure, such as the hand of a cyclist from putting pressure on the handlebars
- Nerve or vascular problems
What are the symptoms of ulnar nerve damage?
- Numbness and tingling in the little finger and along the outside of the ring finger
- Weakness of hand pinch and grip
- Pain may or may not be present
To determine whether you have ulnar tunnel syndrome, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history and conduct a physical examination. A nerve conduction study, CT scan or MRI may be used to identify whether something is putting pressure on the nerve.
Ulnar tunnel syndrome of the wrist treatment
Treatment for ulnar tunnel syndrome depends on what is causing pressure on the nerve. Treatment options include:
- Wrist brace
- Anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- A change in workplace set up or technique, such as taking more breaks or adding padding to equipment
- Physical therapy
Ulnar tunnel syndrome surgery
In certain cases surgery is sometimes necessary and your surgeon will recommend the best course of treatment. Most cases are caused by a growth on the wrist, which must be removed surgically. A hand surgeon will remove cysts, scar tissue or other causes of compression and you will go home the same day.
It can take a few months for the nerve to grow and heal completely. However, the feeling will gradually return and the numbness and tingling will decrease. Your surgeon will give you exercises to do for rehabilitation.
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