Ulnar canal syndrome is a compression of the ulnar nerve in the elbow joint area. The ulnar canal, through which the ulnar nerve passes, is located on the inner surface of the elbow joint, behind the most protruding bone (internal epicondyle of the shoulder).
In this place the ulnar nerve is close to the skin and bone at the same time. This is why we feel a sharp pain when we hit our elbow. If there is more pressure on the nerve in this area, the conduction of the nerve impulse is disturbed, which manifests as numbness, tingling and pain in the elbow, forearm, hand and/or fingers.
What are the causes of ulnar canal syndrome?
The size of the ulnar canal only allows the nerve to pass between the bone and the ligament. Therefore, any external pressure, no matter how small, can cause the nerve to malfunction. For example, if you rest your hand on the inside of your elbow. Because of the fold of the nerve over the bone, any prolonged bending of the joint causes the nerve to tighten. This can occur while sleeping, for example, when the hand is placed under the head.
In some cases there may be thickening of the nerve itself, which also causes it to stop “fitting” into the canal and become compressed by its walls. If the nerve is periodically compressed, its susceptibility to pressure gradually decreases and this leads to the development of the syndrome.
Signs and symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome
The main manifestations of cubital tunnel syndrome are pain, numbness and/or tingling. Numbness and tingling sensations occur in the ring and little fingers. At first, discomfort and pain occur only when the elbow is pressed or flexed for a prolonged period. In the more advanced stage, pain and numbness are felt all the time. Another symptom is a “weakness” in the arm.
It manifests as a loss of “confidence” in the hand and objects suddenly begin to fall out during usual activities. For example, a person has difficulty pouring water from a teapot. In advanced stages, the hand begins to thin and pits appear between the bones due to muscle atrophy.