Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow occurs when the ulnar nerve which runs from the neck down into the hand becomes compressed or irritated. The most common place for compression is behind the inside part of the elbow.
Aching pain on the inside of the elbow. Numbness and tingling in the little finger, half of the ring finger and that edge of the hand. The grip may be weakened and there may be difficulty coordinating finger movements (e.g., typing or playing an instrument). If the compression has been going on for a long period of time, there may be some muscle wasting in the hand which is irreversible.
Non-surgical: avoiding activities which irritate or compress the nerve such as keeping the arm bent or leaning on the elbow especially the inside of the elbow for long periods of time. Other treatments include anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling around the nerve, bracing or splinting the keep the elbow straight or certain exercises that can help the nerve movement and prevent stiffness in the arm and wrist.
Surgical: If non-surgical methods have not been successful or if the compression is severe or causing muscle weakness or damage, surgical management may be recommended to relieve the pressure on the nerve. There are a few surgical procedures that may help including cutting the ligament to increase the size of the tunnel through which the nerve travels. Another technique is to move the nerve from the behind the medial epicondyle to in front of the bone to prevent it getting caught. A third option is to remove part of the medial epicondyle which may be irritating the nerve.
Depending on the type of surgery a splint may be needed for a few weeks after the operation. Physical rehabilitation may be recommended to help regain strength and motion in the arm.