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Pinched nerve in the elbow

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An individual can end up with a pinched nerve in the elbow which is also known as cubital tunnel syndrome. In this condition, the nerve is entrapped or becomes pinched due to overuse, direct trauma and anatomic variations.

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a neurological condition which causes discomfort and pain and sometimes there is weakness of the forearm and hand. A bony bump can be felt on the inner side of the elbow which is known as medial epicondyle. The ulnar nerve passes through the medial epicondyle groove towards the forearm, hands and the fingers.

Symptoms

  • Numbness, pain and tingling on two fingers where the nerve is compressed in the medial epicondyle of elbow joint.
  • The pain becomes worse especially when resting the elbow on the table and performing activities that requires repetitive flexing and straightening of the elbow such as driving or holding a phone.
  • Waking up at night due to numbness of the fingers.
    Pinched nerve in the elbow

    Numbness, pain and tingling on two fingers where the nerve is compressed in the medial epicondyle of elbow joint.

  • There is tenderness and pain in the elbow area
  • The symptoms happen intermittently but eventually become continuous.
  • Weakness in the forearm and hand in which the affected person loses his/her grip when holding objects.
  • If the nerve is compressed severely or has been compressed for a long time, muscle wasting can develop in the hand which requires immediate medical care.

Causes

  • Constant pressure on the inner side of the elbow especially when placing the elbow and arm on top of the table while sitting.
  • Bending the elbows for long periods or repeatedly bending can cause pain can make the condition worse and cause the fingers to become numb at night.
  • Leaning on the elbows for a prolonged period places significant pressure on the nerve.
  • Accumulation of fluid in the elbow causes swelling that result in compression of the nerve.
  • Holding vibrating tools while performing repetitive activities can cause irritation of the ulnar nerve in the medial epicondyle area.

Treatment

  • Avoid placing significant pressure on the affected elbow. Avoid placing the elbow for prolonged periods of time on the arm rest while sitting on a chair and while sleeping to prevent bending the elbows that can make the condition worse.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected elbow to lessen the inflammation and pain. Place ice cubes in a bag and wrap in small towel and apply on the affected elbow at least 10-20 minutes. Avoid placing the ice pack directly on the skin to prevent frostbite and making the condition worse.
  • Help heal the affected area by avoiding activities that places substantial strain and pressure on the elbow.
  • Wear a splint or brace around the elbow to minimize repeated bending and straightening of the elbow.
  • Wear elbow padding when placing the elbow on the arm rest to lessen the pressure placed on the ulnar nerve and promote fast healing of the condition.
  • Take the prescribed anti-inflammatory medications to lessen the inflammation and pain.

In case the symptoms seem to persist and becomes worse, it is vital to seek medical care as soon as possible.

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