Your ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in your arm. It supplies sensation to your pinkie finger and part of your ring finger. It also controls some of the muscles in your hand and forearm necessary for fine motor coordination and grip strength.
The path your ulnar nerve takes as it travels from your spine through your arm can give rise to the so-called phenomenon known as "hitting your funny bone." Specifically, the ulnar nerve passes through a bony groove in your elbow covered by fibrous tissue in what is called the cubital tunnel. At this area in your elbow, the ulnar nerve is quite close to the skin and vulnerable to compression, bumps, and blows. If this happens, a variety of uncomfortable symptoms can occur.
Symptoms of Hitting Your Ulnar Nerve
If you knock your elbow against something and compress the ulnar nerve, you may experience:
- Numbness and tingling ("pins and needles") that radiates down the arm into the little finger and ring finger
- Pain in the elbow, forearm, and last two fingers
- Stiffness in the pinkie and ring fingers (you may feel like you need to "shake out" your hand)
While the symptoms of hitting your ulnar nerve can be quite uncomfortable, they’re generally temporary and should go away on their own. However, if you experience more than just an incidental blow to your elbow, your ulnar nerve may become entrapped in a more chronic condition known as cubital tunnel syndrome.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: When It’s More Than Just a Bump on the Funny Bone
In addition to the above symptoms, cubital tunnel syndrome can also lead to weakening (atrophy) of the muscles in your hand if the compression at the ulnar nerve lasts for around 4 weeks or more. People with cubital tunnel syndrome may also experience decreased fine motor coordination and symptoms that get worse with certain activities or movements (such as elbow flexion).
Elbow and hand treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome largely depends on what’s causing the ulnar nerve compression. A few of the most common causes we see include overuse, poor posture or ergonomics, fluid build-up in the elbow, cysts, inflamed bursae, a history of elbow fracture or dislocation, or arthritic bony spurs near the elbow.
Looking for Effective Hand Treatment to Relieve Your Numbness and Pain? Connect with Our Team at the Florida Hand Center Today
At the Florida Hand Center, our staff has worked with hundreds of people from the Port Charlotte and Fort Meyers communities struggling with pain and dysfunction related to cubital tunnel syndrome. If you believe you’re dealing with an ulnar nerve entrapment and would like to explore your treatment options, contact us today at (941) 257-3470 to schedule an appointment with an experienced Florida hand surgeon.