The ulnar nerve runs from the neck into the hand, enabling it to work properly and have feeling. Ulnar tunnel syndrome is when this nerve is compressed.
Ulnar tunnel syndrome (UTS) is usually caused by a ganglion (a fluid filled lump) on the wrist joint. It can also be caused by putting repeated pressure on the area of the palm of the hand through which the nerve runs, for example when a cyclist grips the handlebars of the bike.
These include numbness that particularly affects the little finger, along with weakness, and in some cases pain. These symptoms usually develop over time, making it increasingly difficult to carry out everyday tasks such as using a keyboard, or holding objects.
After discussing your symptoms, your specialist will check for signs of muscle weakness and also examine the elbow as pressure on the nerve at this point can cause symptoms in your hand. You may also have a nerve conduction test to discover how well the nerve is working, along with a CT or MRI scan or X-ray to identify the cause of the pressure which could be a cyst or a fragment of fractured bone.
The type of treatment you will be offered depends on the cause of, and extent of damage to, your nerve.
Non-operative treatment: you may be able to improve your symptoms by changing or modifying an activity (for example, changing your grip on the handlebars if you are a cyclist). Anti-inflammatory medication may help, if advised by your doctor, along with a splint to support your wrist.
Surgery: if the pressure on the nerve is caused by a ganglion, this will usually be removed, after which your symptoms should gradually improve.
Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Everyone is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you’re worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.