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Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

What is Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

Ulnar tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the wrist. It is caused when the ulnar nerve becomes pinched.

The ulnar nerve is one of three main nerves in your arm, and runs from your neck to your hand.

It is responsible for some hand movements and function. When the part of the nerve running from your wrist to your hand is compressed, you can experience weakness, numbness, tingling, or pain.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

Any activity that inflicts abnormal pressure on the ulnar nerve can bring on the problem. 

Even how you hold your head can affect your neck, shoulder or elbow, causing pain in the wrist. 

Risk factors to be aware of that can lead to ulnar tunnel syndrome are:

  • Repetitive activities that put pressure on the hands, such as:
    • Typing on a computer or writing
    • Working with tools, especially vibrating tools
    • Lifting weights
    • Cycling
  • A previous wrist injury such as a fracture or dislocation
  • A cyst or ganglion (a lump filled with fluid) that forms on the wrist joint

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

Signs and symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome can develop slowly over time, and can affect the hand, wrist, and little finger.

Symptoms include:

  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in your wrist or ring and little fingers
  • Difficulty and pain doing regular tasks like holding a book, phone, writing, typing, driving, or cooking
  • Hand and fingers form a claw shape
  • Weakness in the hand

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How is Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome Treated?

Treatments for ulnar tunnel syndrome include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), either prescribed, or over-the-counter, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery – surgery is required if your ulnar tunnel syndrome is caused by a ganglion or cyst; physiotherapy plays an important part in rehabilitation. Other causes can usually be treated effectively without surgery.

Physiotherapy for Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, and improving strength and range of motion to avoid long-term damage. 

The sooner you begin treatment, the better your outlook is. 

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for ulnar tunnel syndrome can include:

  • Functional retraining and activity modification
  • Stretching, strengthening and range of motion exercises
  • Bracing or splinting
  • Personalized exercise plan that can be done at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
  • Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
  • Patient education, actively involving you in your own recovery, including return to work or sport recommendations
  • Occupational therapy
  • Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as: 

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Can Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome Go Away On Its Own?

Probably not. 

If left untreated, or if treated at home improperly, the condition will eventually cause permanent damage to the ulnar nerve, possibly resulting in permanent numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in your hand and wrist. 

Simple tasks such as typing, opening a jar or turning a door handle may become impossible. 

However, with proper treatment it is possible to recover, especially if you are treated right away.

Can You Prevent Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

There are steps you can take to reduce your chance of developing ulnar tunnel syndrome, including:

  • Taking frequent breaks from repetitive activities like typing or using vibrating tools
  • Using ergonomic or padded tools such as a mouse and keyboard
  • Modifying how you perform repetitive tasks
  • Avoiding resting your elbow on armrests or your desk as you work, as this can put pressure on the ulnar nerve

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for a Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome Today

Concerned about symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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