Ulnar neuropathy is characterized by injury to the ulnar nerve, the nerve that travels across the elbow from the shoulder to the hand and helps you to move your hand and wrist. Damage to the nerve slows down or stops signals being sent across the nerve. The symptoms of ulnar neuropathy include:
- Numbness, decreased sensation or abnormal sensations in the little finger and certain regions of the ring finger
- Loss of coordination in the fingers
- Pain, tingling and burning sensation
- Weakness of the hand
Possible complications related to ulnar neuropathy include hand deformity, partial or complete loss of sensation in the hand or fingers and partial or complete loss of movement in the wrist or hand. Ulnar neuropathy can be caused by an elbow fracture or dislocation, or long-term pressure on the elbow or the base of the palm.
When you present to the clinic with symptoms of ulnar neuropathy, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and may order blood tests, MRI, nerve ultrasound, nerve conduction tests, and X-rays to make a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment may involve pain medications to control and reduce pain. To help prevent further injury and relieve symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a supportive splint for the wrist or elbow. Physical therapy and occupational counselling may be suggested for maintaining muscle strength and to instruct you on changes you can make at work to relieve or prevent further pain. If symptoms get worse and if the nerve is deteriorating, your doctor may recommend surgery. The options include
- Medial Epicondylectomy involves removing the medial epicondyle, the bony bump on the inside of the elbow, enabling the ulnar nerve to glide smoothly when the elbow is flexed and straightened.
- Ulnar Nerve Transposition involves creating a new tunnel in front of the medial epicondyle and transposing (moving) the ulnar nerve to the new tunnel.
Your surgeon will decide which surgery would be best for you depending on your symptoms.