The ulnar nerve is located just below your elbow and a blow to that area can result in a contusion. A contusion occurs when blood flows from the damaged capillaries to the nerve itself. The results are painful and can lead to numbness in your hands and fingers and a complete loss of feeling. An ulnar nerve contusion limits activities that require you to use your hands or fingers.
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Playing contact sports such as football and soccer puts you at risk for getting an elbow injury. Falling while running or riding a skateboard are common activities that lead to the damage. Hypothyroidism, diabetes and bleeding disorders also put you at a higher risk of developing an ulnar nerve contusion.
Sometimes an ulnar nerve contusion occurs when you “hit your funny bone,” though there's nothing funny about the associated discomfort. In addition to the tingling, which typically occurs in the fourth and fifth fingers on the arm you bumped, you may feel increasing pain as the nerve become more entrapped. Rehabilitation begins immediately by doing what you can to relieve the swelling around the nerve. Immobilize your arm in a sling and apply ice to your elbow while taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. If the tingling does not subside in a few hours, you should see a doctor.
Rest, anti-inflammatory medications and ice usually are first used to treat the contusion. Stretching and strengthening exercise are recommended and your arm may need to remain in a splint overnight to prevent complications. Massage designed to loosen up the scar tissue that may be forming from the fall can help to relieve the pressure on your nerve and dispel the tingling and pain. When home care and moderate exercises don’t relieve the symptoms, surgery may be required to release the nerve that's become pinched in your elbow from the injury.
Leave it Alone
More often than not, the numbness and weakness you feel after you bang your elbow dissipates all by itself without any further intervention. In fact, you may just need to shake it off. Rest and avoiding the movement that caused the contusion will speed up your recovery as well. While some ulnar nerve contusions heal spontaneously, more severe damage can take about six weeks to heal. Rarely are the symptoms permanent.