Ulnar Nerve Compression | Symptoms and Treatment | MedStar Health

Comprehensive care

The orthopedic team at MedStar Health specializes in elbow care and can help you overcome ulnar nerve problems. Our physicians recommend conservative options whenever possible. Our main goal is to ensure that your individual needs are met throughout the treatment and recovery process. To do this, our physicians spend time speaking with you about your options prior to treatment and will collaborate with other MedStar Health specialists that you may need during your recovery. We will work with you to develop a tailored treatment plan to get you back to your normal life as soon as possible

What is ulnar nerve compression (cubital tunnel syndrome)?

The ulnar nerve provides strength and sensation to the inside part of the hand; it runs along the arm and passes through the inside of the elbow. It is very vulnerable to stress, trauma, or overuse. When this nerve is compressed, it requires attention from an orthopedic physician who specializes in arm and elbow treatment. In some cases, nerve compression requires surgical intervention.

What are the causes?

This nerve, which is one of the main nerves that run through your arm, can become compressed near the elbow due to any of the following:

  • Direct blow to the elbow

  • Fluid buildup that causes swelling

  • Prolonged pressure on the elbow

  • Overuse of the elbow joint

What are the symptoms?

This is also known as cubital tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve entrapment. It can cause a number of painful and unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms may warrant a visit to one of our specialists for a comprehensive evaluation. The following are the most common symptoms:

  • Muscular weakness in the hand
  • Shooting pain from the elbow down to the pinkie and ring finger
  • Numbness and tingling in the ring and pinky fingers

How is it diagnosed?

The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Health are experts at diagnosing the full range of arm and elbow injuries. An initial exam with our physicians generally includes:

  • Medical history evaluation: Your physician will ask you questions about your personal and family medical history as well as discuss your symptoms and when your pain first began to better understand your elbow condition.

  • Physical exam: Your orthopedist will conduct a thorough examination of the elbow and arm and may ask you about the location of your elbow discomfort.

  • Imaging tests: In some cases, an imaging test, such as X-ray, MRI, or EMG/nerve conduction studies may be used to rule out other conditions and to make an accurate diagnosis


What are the best treatment options?

Non-surgical treatments, such as splints, oral anti-inflammatory medications, and adjustments in daily activities are typically the first course of action. If the constriction around the nerve does not respond to non-surgical treatments, surgery may be recommended.

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