The median nerve is a major player in the movements of your hands. This nerve travels from your forearm down into your hand through a narrow space in your wrist called the carpel tunnel. When injury, illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis, pregnancy or other causes of inflammation impact the tunnel and make the space tighter, it can impinge or irritate the median nerve, causing pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, twitching and lack of coordination of the thumb, and first three fingers of the hand. This is known as carpal tunnel syndrome and is especially common among people who perform the same hand and finger movements over and over again, as with computer-focused/typing jobs, assembly-line tasks, cooking/baking jobs and other duties where the hands are held forward from the body and the wrists are bent at an angle for long periods.
The ulnar nerve is another nerve that serves the hand. It controls the pinky finger and partly controls the ring finger. Your ring finger is also partly controlled by another nerve serving the hand, the ulnar nerve; it also controls the pinky finger. The ulnar nerve travels through the cubital tunnel just under the bone inside the elbow, sometimes called the “funny bone.” It courses through the inside of the forearm to the outer side of the hand. The ulnar nerve regulates certain fine hand movements and enables a strong grip. When the ulnar nerve is irritated or inflamed because of injury, compression from leaning on the elbow, sleeping in certain positions, or performing tasks requiring arms to be bent for long periods, it can cause problems in the hand characterized by numbness, tingling or pain in the ring and pinky fingerIn addition, the patient may have an inability to perform more complex hand and finger movements including maintenance of a tight grip.
Because the median nerve and ulnar nerve are linked to nerves that exit from the cervical spine (neck), injuries like whiplash and disc compression can lead to the development of one or both of these syndromes.
If you have symptoms of either carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndrome that last for more than a few weeks, it is important to see your doctor to confirm a diagnosis. Delays in treatment can result in muscle wasting and hand weakness.
Mild cases of these syndromes can be successfully treated with conservative care, including rest, medication, stabilizing splints and adopting better ergonomic positioning while performing tasks.
The Board Certified neurosurgeons of Ocala Neurosurgical Center have diagnosed and treated countless patients for carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes. Most treatments are conservative and provide relief without surgery. When surgery is necessary, our surgeons have extensive experience opening up cramped tunnel spaces, relieving pressure on affected nerves and helping to stop further damage to the nerves and muscles they serve.
If you have questions about carpal or cubital tunnel therapy, please contact the caring professionals of ONC. We’re here to help you get back to living life without pain.