What is Ulnar Neuropathy?

Fingers curled on a table

The elbows and wrists have several nerves that provide sensation to the arm, wrist, elbow and the finger digits on the hands. Ulnar neuropathy references the ulnar nerve, a nerve that helps provide sensation to the elbow, the wrist and fourth and fifth digits (fingers) on the hand respectively. When this nerve becomes entrapped, damaged or irritated, it can result in ulnar neuropathy.

Associated symptoms include: inflammation, discomfort, tingles and numbness in the elbow, wrist or fourth or fifth digits on the hand. In some cases, numbness can last weeks upon end before sensation returns. In extreme cases, the numbness can be persistent and last many months on end. In instances where the nerve has sustained permanent damage, numbness can be permanent.

Treatment Options

Patients have a variety of different treatment options that they can consider pursuing if they are suffering from ulnar neuropathy.

  • Occupational therapy that involves progressive physical therapy with a treating specialist, and can help provide immediate and lasting relief. During these exercises, new range of motion and basic physical exercises, as well as manipulation, can help restore full sensation to the nerve and prevent future damage from occurring.
  • Splints can be worn over the wrist at night to prevent it from being strained. A variety of night splints exist that are designed to protect the wrist and elbow from strain during sleeping. These medical devices are typically used in combination with occupational therapy.
  • Surgical options can also be pursued in severe cases. A variety of different surgeries, some less invasive than others, can be used to provide treatment for a compressed ulnar nerve. With newer technologies, endoscopic outpatient surgeries can now be performed with limited invasion and reduced downtime.