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About Ulnar Nerve Entrapment
- Caused by compression of the ulnar nerve, usually at the elbow, the disorder is the second most common nerve entrapment after carpal tunnel syndrome.
- The elbow is the most vulnerable point of the ulnar nerve because it is near the surface, fixed and crosses a joint.
- The cause of most cases is unknown, although the condition may accompany a history of elbow fracture, dislocation, arthritis or repeated minor trauma.
- This entrapment causes pain, numbness and/or tingling in the little finger and half of the ring finger, elbow pain and hand weakness.
- Early symptoms may be purely weakness.
- Often the symptoms are made worse by cold temperature.
- The ulnar nerve is also occasionally tender at the elbow, or "the funny bone."
- Non-surgical treatment options include avoidance of elbow trauma, elbow pad, rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- Surgical options primarily consist of nerve decompression with or without transposition, or relocation, of the nerve.
- The advantages of simple decompression versus transposition include a shorter operation performed more easily under local anesthesia, avoidance of nerve kinking and muscular scarring around the transposed nerve, and preservation of small skin branches of the nerve.
- Overall, a good to excellent result occurs in 60 percent of cases, fair result in 25 percent, and no improvement or worsening in 15 percent. Pain and sensory changes respond better than muscle weakness and atrophy.