Ulnar nerve entrapment

The Ulnar nerve is one of the main nerves that serve the muscles and provide sensation in the hand.  It can become trapped and squashed in several parts of the arm, but the most common place is behind the elbow at the ‘funny bone’.

This can cause pain radiating down the forearm, and ‘pins and needles’ mainly affecting the little finger, as well as weakness in the hand.  The condition may start off as an intermittent problem and then become a more permanent problem.  If it is neglected, some of the muscles in the hand will become weaker and make delicate hand movements difficult and clumsy.  It can be diagnosed with a specialist elbow examination and a nerve conduction study.  This is a test performed by a neurophysiologist, who will use extremely small needles to send small electric pulses along the nerve to see where it is getting squashed.

If these tests do show that the nerve is trapped behind the elbow and the symptoms are not resolving, it is recommended that it be released in order to take the pressure off the nerve and allow it to function normally.  This procedure is called an ulnar nerve release and is performed as a day-case procedure.  The ExeterElbow surgeons each perform about 15 of these procedures a year.  It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to recover from the operation.