What is Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

We're happy to share insights from our doctors.

Ulnar tunnel syndrome is a condition that develops when there is compression on a main nerve running through the wrist, called the ulnar nerve. Traveling from the neck all the down the arm, the ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerve groups that drive motor function and sensation in the hand. When there is ulnar nerve compression, a person can experience numbness and pain as well as a diminished ability to perform basic tasks, such as opening a ketchup bottle because of muscle weakness.

Common Causes of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

There are many potential causes for ulnar tunnel syndrome. Though in common practice, this condition typically arises as a result of the common causes below.

  • Ganglion Cysts Ganglion cysts are typically non-cancerous and often benign in nature, but can lead to the development of ulnar tunnel syndrome.
  • Repetitive Stress — Chronic stress on the hand and wrist joints through repetitive activities, such as typing or lifting, can be a cause of ulnar tunnel syndrome.
  • Previous Trauma — Lingering trauma from a previous wrist fracture or similar injury can contribute to the progression of ulnar tunnel syndrome.

Ordinary Symptoms of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

The most common symptom of ulnar tunnel syndrome is numbness or pins and needles in the fingers or hand. The ring finger and little finger are often affected, with many patients describing a loss of sensation in that area. Pain is present in certain cases, but not always.

As ulnar tunnel syndrome becomes more severe, there can be more noticeable impairment to the fingers or hand. For example, patients might have difficulty grasping objects or opening bottles. Ulnar tunnel syndrome can also interfere with the performance of more complex motor functions as well, such as typing on a keyboard or playing an instrument.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

In order to diagnose ulnar tunnel syndrome, a licensed physician will usually start with a physical examination. Though in certain cases, it might be necessary to conduct imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, most commonly a nerve conduction test will be ordered.

After diagnosing ulnar tunnel syndrome, a licensed physician can then recommend appropriate treatment options. For some patients, a change in behavior or posture can help alleviate symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medication can be helpful as well. Though for many patients, surgery is necessary to remove the compression on the ulnar nerve.

Receive Professional Medical Care for Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

If you are experiencing any symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome, it can be highly valuable to seek assistance from a licensed hand surgeon. At Midwest Hand Surgery, our doctors have a demonstrated focus on hand, wrist, and elbow issues, including ulnar tunnel syndrome. With training and experience at the fellowship level, our doctors can lend greater insight than regular board-certified physicians.

With on-site surgical suites, not to mention same-day treatment availability, Midwest Hand Surgery has the capability to help you recover from various types of injuries. Plus, our patients always receive treatment from their doctor, not a physician assistant. If you need professional medical care for ulnar tunnel syndrome, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.

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