Ulnar Neuropathy

What is ulnar neuropathy?

Ulnar neuropathy is a nerve problem that causes numbness, tingling, or pain in your arm, hand, wrist, or little finger.

This condition is also called handlebar palsy.

What is the cause?

The pain and other symptoms are caused by irritation of the ulnar nerve. This nerve is in your arm and goes from your neck to your ring finger and little finger. Some of the things that can irritate the ulnar nerve are:

  • Repeat movements of the wrist from activities like hammering, throwing, using a computer mouse or keyboard, or painting
  • An elbow injury
  • Stretching of the nerve, like when you hold the lower position of a drop handlebar when you ride a bike

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain in the forearm or hand on the side of the little finger

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. Your provider may refer you to a specialist for tests to check your nerves.

How is it treated?

It’s important to try to find what caused the problem and figure out what you need to do differently. For example if it is caused by bicycling, it may help to wear padded gloves. You might also try changing how you hold the handlebar, like move your grip from the top of the handlebar to the sides of the handlebar.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises and other types of physical therapy to help you heal.

A splint or tape that keeps your wrist from moving may help. Ask your provider about this.

How can I help take care of myself?

Take pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent ulnar neuropathy?

Here are some of the things you can do to help prevent ulnar neuropathy:

  • Try to stop doing activities that involve repeat movements that irritate your ulnar nerve.
  • When you ride a bike, change your hand position on the handlebar often.
  • Do hand and wrist stretches before activities.

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Published by RelayHealth.
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