Ulnar neuropathy happens when the ulnar nerve, which is found in the arm, is irritated, compressed, or trapped. This nerve is one of the three main nerves of the arm, traveling into the hand from the neck. It can be constricted in various places, such as in the wrist or below the collarbone. Most commonly, it can become trapped behind the elbow's inside part. Ulnar neuropathy is also known as 'cubital tunnel syndrome'. Ulnar neuropathy treatment depends on the individual patient.
Ulnar Neuropathy Treatment – Home Remedies:
You can do a lot at home to get some relief from this type of neuropathy. If you find that your symptoms last for several weeks, or if they interfere with regular activities, then you must make an appointment with your physician. Some of the things you can do at home include:
- Not leaving your arm bent for lengthy periods
- Properly positioning a desk chair and not using the armrest to rest the elbow
- Not putting pressure on the inside of your arm, or leaning on your elbow
- Keeping the arm straight as you sleep, for instance, by wearing a backwards elbow pad or wrapping the arm in a towel
Ulnar Neuropathy Treatment – Medical Options:
There are surgical and nonsurgical treatment options out there. Nonsurgical options include:
- Anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medication, including ibuprofen. This helps to reduce any swelling found around the nerve. Most chronic pain conditions are treated using steroid injections and drugs. This is not the case with ulnar neuropathy, however, as it may cause permanent damage to the nerve.
- Splinting or bracing, which you will usually have to wear at night, ensuring your arms stay straight and still while you sleep.
- Nerve gliding exercises, which help your nerve to slide properly through the cubital tunnel a the Guyon's canal, found at the wrist and the elbow. This has been shown to be quite effective, while at the same time also preventing stiffness in the wrist and the arm.
Surgical treatment may also be offered, which is designed to reduce the pressure on the nerve. This will usually be provided if:
- Nonsurgical methods have been shown to not be effective.
- There is very severe compression of the ulnar nerve.
- Muscles have become weakened or damaged as a result of nerve compression.
A number of surgical procedures can be used. These will be discussed by an orthopedic surgeon, who can tell you which one is best for you, and why. Most procedures are outpatient procedures, although some patients will have an overnight stay.
The most popular surgical remedy for this condition is known as cubital tunnel release, whereby the roof of the tunnel is first cut and then divided. This makes it larger, so that there is less nerve pressure. The ligament heals after the procedure and new tissue will grow across it. This, in turn, heals the ligament and leaves additional space for the nerve to pass through. This procedure usually works best in mild to moderate compression, and if the nerve does not actually come out of the medial epicondyle on bending the elbow.