The ulnar nerve runs down the arm, past the inside of the elbow, and to the hand near your little finger. Near the elbow, it passes through a tight space known as the cubital tunnel. Injuries that cause inflammation of the ulnar nerve in the cubital tunnel can cause entrapment and compression of the nerve. In addition to those experiencing direct injury, other people at risk for this condition include people whose jobs involve bending the elbows a lot, alcoholics, diabetics, and people with arthritis or thyroid disorders.
Symptoms of this problem include:
- Tingling of the little and ring fingers
- Numbness of the hand when the elbow is bent
- Reduced hand coordination
- Reduced hand strength
- Tenderness at the inside of the elbow
- Pain along the inside of the shoulder blade
Your physician will ask you about the symptoms of your condition and will wish to examine your arm. He or she may also obtain X-rays or electrical stimulation tests of nerve conduction. The first line of treatment is non-surgical and includes: Keeping the elbow as straight as possible—modifying one’s work environment, using telephone headsets, etc.; wearing a splint at night to straighten the elbow; use of elbow protection during athletic activity; use of corticosteroids. If these approaches fail, surgery may be needed.