Preventing Ulnar Nerve Compression

Ulnar nerve compression is a nerve disorder that can cause numbness, pain, or tingling in the arm, hand, or fingers. When you bend your elbow, the ulnar nerve—which travels from the shoulder to the hand—wraps around a bony ridge on the inside of the elbow called the medial epicondyle. Keeping your elbow bent for long periods of time or repeatedly bending your elbow can irritate the nerve and cause the pain, tingling, or numbness associated with this condition.

The condition, also called cubital tunnel syndrome, most often results from the nerve being squeezed as it passes behind the elbow in the cubital tunnel, an area commonly known as the “funny bone,” a channel that allows the ulnar nerve to travel over the elbow. The nerve can also be compressed at the wrist, beneath the collarbone, or as it comes out of the spinal cord in the neck.

Risk Factors

Anyone can experience ulnar nerve compression, regardless of age or gender. However, some people are more prone to the condition, including:

  • Athletes who repetitively throw or swing, such as golfers or football and tennis players.
  • Long-distance drivers who rest their elbow on the car window for extended periods of time.
  • Office workers who lean their elbow on a desk for many hours.
  • People who have had elbow fractures or other injuries.

Tips for Prevention

Preventing or reducing ulnar nerve compression can be as simple as maintaining good posture and practicing good form when using your elbow and arm. A variety of methods can help to prevent ulnar nerve compression:

  • Limit activities that can make it worse, such as tennis or golf.
  • Do not lean on your elbow while driving or sitting.
  • Keep your arm straight while at rest.
  • Wear a splint while you sleep to prevent the elbow from bending.
  • Try to prevent falls or direct impact to the inside of the elbow (near the funny bone).

If you’re experiencing numbness or pain, experts at NYU Langone can work with you to minimize your symptoms. No matter the severity of your discomfort, our specialists can quickly diagnose the condition and offer treatment that lets you maintain your daily lifestyle.

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