Dr. Kamal Thapar, MD., PhD., FRCSC., FAANS
1200 Oakleaf Way, Suite A, Altoona, WI 54720
Ulnar nerve compression is a condition that occurs when the ulnar nerve is pinched in the arm. It can be compressed at multiple locations as it travels from the neck to the hand, but it occurs most often at the elbow. Another term for ulnar nerve compression is cubital tunnel syndrome, if the ulnar nerve is in fact pinched at the level of the elbow.
– Prolonged pressure on the elbow by leaning on it frequently throughout the day
– Repetitive bending of the elbow
– Trauma to the elbow
– Numbness and tingling in the ring and small finger of the affected hand
– Weakened grip strength in the affected hand
– Pain along the medial aspect of the elbow joint
– Muscle wasting (loss of muscle mass) in the affected hand
A test called an electromyogram (EMG) is used to confirm the diagnosis of ulnar nerve compression and to identify the extent and location of any nerve damage. An MRI of the cervical spine may also be ordered to ensure the symptoms and nerve damage are not a result of compression of the nerves in the neck.
Conservative management for ulnar nerve compression includes limiting pressure and repetitive bending of the elbow, physical therapy, splinting of the elbow to immobilize it and anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, Aleve). If conservative management is ineffective in alleviating a patient’s symptoms or if significant weakness or muscle wasting is present, surgical intervention, ulnar nerve decompression, may be required to relieve compression of the ulnar nerve. The compression can occur at the elbow or the wrist or at both locations.