We have all had the experience of Бhitting the funny boneБ: that painful buzzing, tingling, and numb feeling in the pinky finger when you hit the wrong spot on the inside of your elbow. Fortunately, it usually takes a few minutes for the feeling to go away on its own. But what if the same feeling started without an injury and it doesnБt go away on its own? At first, you might think that you just slept on your hand wrong, and it simply needs to wake up. But if the symptoms continue for a few days, you might search the internet for an answer to the question: why is my pinky numb? First, a quick anatomy lesson: The ulnar nerve is responsible for the feeling, or sensation, in the small and ring fingers. This important nerve also controls many of the small muscles within the hand responsible for fine motor control and some muscles in the forearm used for strong gripping. The ulnar nerve is made up of small nerve fibers which exit the spinal column in the neck and travel down the inside of the arm. At the elbow, the ulnar nerve curves around the back of the bony bump within a tunnel on the inner part of the elbow. This bony bump is called the medial epicondyle. The ulnar nerve is close to the skin and vulnerable to injury in this location. This part of the elbow is called the cubital tunnel.
You may have recognized this area as the Бfunny bone,Б because bumping the nerve here causes that painful buzzing and tingling feeling shooting into the hand. Additionally, if too much pressure is placed on the nerve over time, the nerve is said to be БpinchedБ and similar symptoms may develop gradually. In addition to hand numbness, some patients experience decreased grip strength and fine motor control (dexterity) making the hand feel БclumsyБ to them. In severe cases, muscle loss (atrophy) in the hand and forearm can develop. The ulnar nerve can be БpinchedБ or compressed anywhere along its pathway Б from the neck to the fingers. The most common location for the nerve to be irritated is within the cubital tunnel of the elbow. This problem is known as cubital tunnel syndrome. However, the nerve roots in the neck and the ulnar nerve in the wrist are also sites of potential problems and can cause similar symptoms. In any case, if you have numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in your hand, tell your doctor about it. There are many different causes of numbness and pain in the hand, and problems with the ulnar nerve are not the only culprits. You may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon if your symptoms do not go away on their own.
You may ask, БWhy should I see an orthopaedic surgeon if I have a nerve problem? Б Well, orthopaedists donБt just fix broken bones. We take care of a variety of problems including arthritis, injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments, joint disorders, sports injuries, and nerve compression syndromes Б in addition to fixing broken bones. We can evaluate the problem, try to determine the cause of the symptoms, and develop a treatment plan with our patients. Fortunately, many patients with cubital tunnel syndrome can be treated successfully without surgery. Options include resting the elbow, activity modification, night splinting, and nerve gliding therapy. Surgery to reduce pressure on the nerve may be recommended in severe or long-standing cases which do not improve with conservative care. Please talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Raleigh, North Carolina
In addition to numbness, compression neuropathy can cause weak or twitchy muscles. Compression neuropathy is pressure on a nerve (Figure 1). The pressure may come from an injury, thickened muscles, enlarged blood vessels, ganglion cysts, etc. Types include: Ulnar nerve compression at the wrist : This causes numbness and tingling of the little finger, part of the ring finger, and in the palm on the little finger side.
Ulnar nerve compression at the elbow : This causes not only the numbness noted above but also numbness on the back of the hand on the pinky side. Pressure on the radial nerve in the forearm or above the wrist : This can cause numbness over the back of the thumb, the index finger, and the web between these two fingers. Median nerve compression at the elbow : This can cause numbness not only in the same area as in carpal tunnel syndrome but also in the palm at the base of the thumb. Pressure on nerves in the neck (Figures 2-3) : This can be caused by arthritis, diseases, infections, tumors, blood vessel abnormalities and other conditions of the spinal cord. In addition to numbness, symptoms include weak muscles and decreased reflexes in the arm and forearm, and even the legs. Sometimes, a nerve may suffer from pressure at more than one area. This is called double crush. Pressure on a nerve may require surgery to get relief. With this condition, there may or may not be pain, and the numbness is often constant and very general in location. Diabetes, alcoholism, and old age are common known causes of neuropathy. Poisoning from metals and industrial compounds are also possible causes.
Millions of Americans suffer from this condition, which can last for years or indefinitely. People with fibromyalgia have been shown to be more likely than others to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and may seek surgical treatment, which can only help carpal tunnel syndrome if it exists with fibromyalgia. People with this condition have persistent pain, frequently in many areas throughout the body, as well as fatigue, headaches, bowel problems, depression, sleep problems and other generalized symptoms. This is another condition known to cause numbness in the hand. It has some symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, specifically numb hands and numb forearms, often with aches and pain. Although the symptoms may be felt in the hands, the muscles causing the problems are usually those in the neck and shoulder region. The symptoms are usually stiffness and may be associated with frequent headaches. There is no hand surgery to correct or improve symptoms with this condition. Certain medications, such as cancer treatment drugs, are known to cause numbness and tingling in the hands. Some of these cause temporary numbness that goes away after completion of the chemotherapy treatment. Others may cause permanent numbness. Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B1 deficiency