The ulnar nerve passes from the shoulder, through the outside of the elbow, through the wrist and to the hand. Compression or irritation of the nerve anywhere along its path can lead to pain, tingling and numbness of the last three fingers of the hand. Treatment is generally conservative, with anti-inflammatory measures applied to relieve compression on the nerve. Occasionally, surgery is necessary to eliminate the symptoms.
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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment
The ulnar nerve runs a course along the outside of the elbow and is what is commonly referred to as the funny bone. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, ulnar nerve neuropathy due to ulnar nerve entrapment is often a painful disorder of the outer side of the arm and hand near the little finger, caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve in the arm. This disorder is the result of anatomical impingement of the ulnar nerve as it passes through the elbow. The symptoms of pain and tingling in the last three fingers usually get worse with repetitive manual labor. If conservative treatments do not help, the entrapment can be corrected surgically.
Ulnar neuropathy, or an irritation of the ulnar nerve, can present with symptoms of numbness in the last three fingers. It can be caused by a simple incidence such as bumping the elbow, or funny bone. Constant leaning on the elbow or draping the elbow out the car window is a common cause of ulnar neuropathy, which is seen in taxi drivers. Generally, conservative treatment of ice, anti-inflammatory medications, rest and splinting will be enough to resolve ulnar neuropathy due to these causes.
Guyan's Tunnel Syndrome
The ulnar nerve can also be irritated as it passes through the wrist, resulting in symptoms of pain and numbness in the last three fingers. It is not to be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, which typically affects the thumb and first finger. Guyans' tunnel syndrome, is commonly called handlebar palsy, due to its relationship to cycling. According to Hughston Health Alert, compression of the ulnar nerve is a common problem for competitive and recreational cycle enthusiasts and is the result of direct pressure on the ulnar nerve from the grip on the handlebars. Wearing padded cycling gloves and repositioning the hands frequently on the handlebars decreases the likelihood of irritating the ulnar nerve.