Ulnar Neuropathy at the Elbow
Ulnar nerve entrapment occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm becomes compressed. When this happens, the nerve does not function normally and can cause the person numbness, a tingling sensation, and pain.
Ulnar nerve entrapment can give the patient symptoms of ” falling asleep” in the ring finger and little finger, especially when the elbow is bent. There may be an aching pain on the inside of the elbow and can sometimes be confused with arthritis or tendonitis. In some cases, it may be harder moving the fingers in and out or manipulating objects. Carpal tunnel syndrome has similar symptoms, but involves a different nerve (the median nerve). Carpal tunnel syndrome typically causes tingling in the thumb, index finger, and long finger.
Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger are common symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment. Often, these symptoms come and go. They happen more often when the elbow is bent, such as when driving or holding the phone. Some people wake up at night because their fingers are numb.
Weakening of the grip and difficulty with finger coordination (such as typing or playing an instrument) may occur.
If the nerve is very compressed or has been compressed for a long time, muscle wasting in the hand can occur. Once this happens, muscle wasting cannot be reversed. For this reason, it is important to see the doctor as soon as any of the symptoms are noticed.