Accident Care Chiropractic logo.
Chiropractic Blog

Chiropractic Care for Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

Published Date: 
November 15, 2023
Closeup of a woman's hands typing on a keyboard.

The ulnar nerve travels down the back and inside of the arm toward the hand. The nerve transmits electrical messages from the brain to the arm and hand. It’s also responsible for the sensations you feel in your ring and pinky fingers and a part of the palm and underside of your forearm.

When this nerve is entrapped, it causes numbness, tingling, and pain that spreads down the forearm and into your ring and pinky fingers. It can also cause weakness and loss of muscle mass.

Many treatments are available to help with ulnar nerve pain, including chiropractic care. This offers an all-natural option for improving the pain and numbness and allowing your body to heal.

How Does the Ulnar Nerve Become Entrapped at the Elbow?

In many cases, prolonged stretching of the ulnar nerve from keeping the elbow bent causes entrapment. This position causes nerve pressure, especially when leaning against a solid surface like a desktop. This is why people with jobs that require a lot of computer use or typing have a higher risk of developing ulnar nerve entrapment. 

It’s also possible for entrapment to occur at the wrist from leaning on handlebars or pressing on hand tools. 

Occasionally, entrapment can occur because someone’s ulnar nerve shifts out of place and across the bump of the bone in the elbow. This is called a subluxing nerve.

Signs You May Have Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a general term for any inflammation, swelling, or irritation of the ulnar nerve. It includes entrapment. In addition to leaning and bending the elbow, cubital tunnel syndrome can also be caused by bone spurs, arthritis, or previous dislocations or fractures of the elbow. Sometimes there is no identifiable cause or multiple causes of cubital tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

Pain or Tenderness in the Elbow or Hand

One of the earliest symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome is tenderness or mild pain. Over time, the pain can worsen. It also tends to spike when the arm is in positions that aggravate the nerve.

Tingling Sensations or Loss of Feeling In the Ring and Pinky Fingers

As cubital tunnel syndrome progresses without treatment, people lose feeling their ring and pinky fingers. The numbness usually starts with a mild tingling similar to what you’d feel if your arm or hand were “falling asleep.”

Weakened Grip Strength

Cubital tunnel syndrome eventually leads to the weakening of grip strength.

Muscle Atrophy in Severe Cases

Over time, especially when someone doesn’t seek treatment, cubital tunnel syndrome causes muscle atrophy in the forearm and hand.

Activities That Aggravate the Ulnar Nerve

Several activities can aggravate the ulnar nerve. These include:

  • Keeping your arm bent at the elbow for long periods without stretching or flexing it throughout the day
  • Allowing the arm to weaken
  • Resting on your elbows a lot, especially against a hard surface
  • Failing to warm up before exercising or using your arms for sports like tennis and racquetball
  • Repetitive motion, often from using tools or devices

Will I Need Surgery?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is often treatable without surgery. However, there are rare occasions when these nonsurgical treatments don’t work, and surgery might be required. Usually, surgery isn’t recommended until the problem begins to cause muscle weakness.

Overhead view of a woman working at a desk on her laptop.

There are different surgical options for treating ulnar nerve problems, including:

  • Cubital tunnel release: Cuts and divides the cubital tunnel, making it bigger and reducing pressure on the ulnar nerve.
  • Ulnar nerve anterior transposition: Repositioning the ulnar nerve from behind the medial epicondyle to the front to stop the nerve from catching on the bone.
  • Medial epicondylectomy: Removal of part of the medial epicondyle to relieve pressure on the nerve.

All three of these surgeries carry a variety of risks and require several weeks of recovery and physical therapy to regain motion and strength. Surgery also doesn’t guarantee you’ll be free of cubital tunnel syndrome forever. This is especially true if you do nothing to reduce your risk. This is partly why it’s better to avoid surgery and treat ulnar nerve entrapment with less risky options.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

Several non-surgical treatment options exist for easing the discomfort of ulnar nerve entrapment. These include:

  • Bracing or splinting, often worn while sleeping, to keep the elbow straight
  • Exercises such as nerve gliding movements help the nerve slide easily through the cubital tunnel and prevent stiffness.
  • Hand therapy which includes physical therapy techniques that focus on helping you avoid putting pressure on your ulnar nerve
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID): Medications, including ibuprofen, reduce swelling around the nerve and mask the pain of the condition.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is one of the most beneficial non-surgical treatment options for cubital tunnel syndrome. It’s safe and all-natural and can help with various nerve health issues.

Healthcare professional checking a patient's right arm and elbow.

Chiropractors use massage to manipulate and mobilize soft tissue, reversing the entrapment of the nerve and promoting your body’s natural tendency to heal.

Additionally, a chiropractor can help you develop a stretching and exercise routine to use at home to avoid nerve problems in the future. In most cases, ulnar nerve entrapment is caused by compression, which is often related to the workplace. Chiropractors can help people working desk jobs find more ergonomic ways to work and prevent problems with their ulnar nerve and their entire body.

Chiropractors also go beyond treating the immediate symptoms of the problem. They aim to help you live your healthiest life by targeting the root of health problems.

Arm Brace 

Arm braces are also highly effective for treating ulnar nerve pain and numbness. Braces help you with coordination and prevent muscle wasting and weakness in the hand. Using a brace to keep your elbow or wrist straight reduces pressure on the nerve. Most people wear their braces during work and at night.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Both chiropractic care and wearing a brace can help you avoid surgery and the need for over-the-counter pain medications. These all-natural remedies help you manage the existing pain and discomfort, prevent worsening or aggravation of the problem, and over time, allow your body to heal and repair itself.

In addition to the treatments chiropractors provide in-office for cubital tunnel syndrome, they also teach patients at-home exercises they can perform to help manage their discomfort. They’ll also recommend changes you can make daily, including how to position your body when working. 

Sometimes, chiropractors also suggest physiotherapy, which includes ultrasound and electric stimulation. These treatment options reduce inflammation and relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve.

Cubital tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve entrapment isn’t a medical emergency but can significantly interfere with your quality of life. It can also make it very difficult to do your job. Fortunately, chiropractic adjustment and other treatments offer a non-invasive treatment option for anyone suffering from this condition. Not only will it help them better manage their pain and be able to perform work-related tasks, but chiropractic treatment also prevents symptoms from worsening and can help patients avoid surgery.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

How Can We Help You?

Let’s Find a Clinic Near You!
Accident Care Chiropractic logo.

© 2024 Accident Care Chiropractic | Hablamos Español

Located in: North Portland, NE Portland, SE Portland, Gresham, Clackamas, Oregon City, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Forest Grove, Woodburn,
McMinnville, Keizer, Salem, South Salem, Bend, Vancouver, Hazel Dell, East Vancouver, Pasco, Kennewick.

We Specialize in Car Accident Treatment & Recovery

Home | About Us | Testimonials | Blog | Sitemap | Privacy Policy | Services | Locations | Contact Us

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram