Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow

Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow (UNE), also known as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, is a condition characterised by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve, one of the three main nerves in your arm. This nerve travels from your neck down into your hand, and can also be constricted in several places along the way, such as beneath the collarbone or at the wrist. The most common place of compression is behind the inside part of the elbow. UNE is the second most common peripheral nerve entrapment after carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms

Patients with Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow may experience symptoms such as:

  • A feeling of “pins and needles” in the ring and little fingers
  • Pain and tenderness in the elbow joint
  • Weakness of hand grip
  • Difficulty with finger coordination (for activities like typing or playing a musical instrument)

Diagnosis

Several diagnostic techniques can be employed to confirm Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow:

  • Physical Examination: Testing the elbow’s range of motion and strength, and examining for tenderness or swelling.
  • Electromyography (EMG): This test evaluates the electrical activity in your muscles when they contract and rest.
  • Nerve Conduction Studies: These assess how well and how fast the nerves can send electrical signals.

Prevention

To prevent Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow, consider the following strategies:

  • Regular physical activity to maintain overall health and joint flexibility
  • Rest and avoid overuse if you start to feel discomfort or pain in your elbow
  • Use of protective gear during activities that could put your elbow at risk

Treatment

Several treatment options are available for Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow:

  • Physiotherapy: This involves exercises that stretch the ulnar nerve. Therapists may also recommend changes in activities to avoid nerve compression.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Surgery: If nonsurgical treatments are unsuccessful, there are several surgical procedures that may provide relief:
  • Cubital Tunnel Release: In this procedure, the ligament “roof” of the cubital tunnel is cut and divided. This increases the size of the tunnel and decreases pressure on the nerve.
  • Ulnar Nerve Anterior Transposition: Here, the nerve is moved from its place behind the elbow to a new place in front of the elbow. This can prevent it from getting caught on the bony ridge and stretching when you bend your elbow.
  • Medial Epicondylectomy: This involves removing part of the medial epicondyle, the bony bump on the inner part of the elbow. Like ulnar nerve anterior transposition, this technique can prevent the nerve from getting caught on the bony ridge and stretching when your elbow is bent.