Ulnar nerve entrapment / Cubital tunnel syndrome

Ulnar nerve entrapment or cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition that develops when the ulnar nerve gets trapped behind the elbow or in the wrist. The pressure on the nerve may also be due to a working position that puts continued pressure on the nerve in the elbow, scar tissue from previous injuries, or rheumatoid arthritis. The ulnar nerve often comes under pressure if you rest your elbows a lot on a hard surface.
Ulnar nerve

What is ulnar nerve entrapment?

It is possible to damage the ulnar nerve at any point from the shoulder down into the hand, but the injury usually occurs in the elbow or wrist. All nerves can be stretched a little without harming them, but they can’t tolerate pressure or shock. The ulnar nerve passes through the elbow in a tunnel, where it is exposed to shock and impact. You have no doubt had the experience of hitting your “funny bone” (which is, in fact, the ulnar nerve) with radiating pain or numbness in the little finger as a result. Ulnar nerve entrapment may manifest as a numbness in half of your ring finger and little finger, and pain in your forearm and elbow.

Ulnar nerve

What causes ulnar nerve entrapment?

Ulnar nerve entrapment is caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve at either the elbow or wrist. The condition often develops in connection with overstraining due to one-sided hand movements during work, or as a result of powerful and/or awkward working movements for many years. Tennis players are particularly at risk, but carpenters and builders who use nail guns can develop the condition due to the pressure from the nail guns on the nerve in the hand. People who work a lot with keyboards and computer mice are also at risk. The diagnosis of ulnar nerve entrapment is often made based on the typical symptoms and a test of the nervous system.

Ulnar nerve

How can ulnar nerve entrapment be treated?

Treating ulnar nerve entrapment will typically include relieving the strain on the hand, as well as minimising the activity/movement that caused the condition. If it’s caused by using a mouse, you should see whether you can change the way you use the mouse or swap to an ergonomic mouse, such as RollerMouse. You may also have to take a closer look at your keyboard, as its tilt can be crucial for the strain on the wrist and fingers. In rare cases, the solution may be surgery.

You may also need to do stretching exercises for this area, which can help prevent pain and discomfort.

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Ulnar nerve

Can ulnar nerve entrapment be avoided completely?

You can minimise the risk of developing ulnar nerve entrapment by being aware of the risk factors. Therefore, if you spend many hours working in front of a computer, it is a good idea to consider how you work in front of the computer to ensure the least possible overstraining and pressure. 

Find our good advice for a better working position here

Note: If you develop symptoms of mouse arm that might be related to your job, you should speak to your employer or health and safety representative (HSR). If you work a lot with a computer, you can investigate the possibility of changing your work assignments or swapping your traditional computer mouse for an ergonomic mouse, as this may contribute to relieving your pain. If your symptoms persist, we advise you to contact your doctor.

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