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What is ulnar nerve compression?

Ulnar nerve compression, or entrapment, is a relatively common injury that affects a major nerve in the brachial plexus system. The ulnar nerve, which provides sensation and motor function to the hand, originates in the neck and extends through the shoulder, down the arm and into the hand and fingers.

While the ulnar nerve can potentially become irritated or pressured at any point along its pathway, the most common site of entrapment is the inner part of the elbow (a condition known as cubital tunnel syndrome). The second most common site is at or near the wrist. Ulnar nerve compression can result from arthritis, fluid buildup, bone spurs or swelling, as well as repetitive bending and straightening of the elbow or leaning on the elbow for an extended period of time.

What are the symptoms of ulnar nerve compression?

Ulnar nerve entrapment can cause discomfort in the arm, elbow, hand or fingers. In addition to pain and tenderness, some common symptoms include:

  • Numbness and tingling sensations in the ring and pinkie fingers
  • A weak grip
  • Difficulty controlling the fingers when performing precise tasks, such as typing or playing a musical instrument
  • Sensitivity to cold temperatures

How is ulnar nerve compression treated?

Treatment for ulnar nerve entrapment can vary depending on the severity of the resulting symptoms. A physician may recommend a physical therapy program designed to strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the elbow and hand. A brace or splint can be worn to limit arm and hand movement as the injury heals, and also to prevent the damage from worsening. Oral anti-inflammatory medications can be taken as needed to relieve pain and inflammation. In severe cases, a physician may recommend a surgical procedure on the elbow or wrist to reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve.

If you’re ready to explore your treatment options for ulnar nerve compression, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, to request an appointment. We’re committed to helping our patients find effective relief from painful orthopedic conditions.