Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist

Overview and Facts about Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist

Ulnar tunnel syndrome of the wrist is an orthopaedic condition that occurs when the ulnar nerve, one of three main nerves in the hand, becomes compressed. The ulnar nerve runs from the neck down to the hand. The wrist is just one of several places where compression can occur.

Signs and Symptoms of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist

The main symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome of the wrist are numbness and tingling in the pinky finger and along the outside of the ring finger. This orthopaedic condition can also cause weakness of the hand when you try to pinch or grip. Symptoms develop gradually as the condition worsens and you might find yourself having difficulty opening jars or coordinating fingers.

Causes and Risk Factors of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist

The most common cause of this condition is a tumor in the soft tissue of the wrist. Repetitive trauma or chronic pressure on the hand can also cause ulnar tunnel syndrome of the wrist. Using a jackhammer often or being a bicyclist are examples of activities that can cause repetitive trauma or chronic pressure. 

Tests and Diagnosis of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist

To diagnose this condition, your doctor will examine the hand and elbow to look for common signs, such as muscle diminishing or wasting.  The doctor may also tap their finger over the nerve to see if this causes tingling. A more advanced imaging test, such as a CT scan or MRI, can be used to identify whether or not the nerve is working properly and also to see if there’s a growth putting pressure on it.

Treatment and Care for Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome of the Wrist

The appropriate treatment option will depend on what is causing the condition. For anyone who developed ulnar tunnel syndrome of the wrist because of their occupation, changing positions to avoid repetitive trauma, protective padding, or switching jobs altogether may be required. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or another over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication may also be helpful in managing pain.

The majority of cases, however, are caused by a growth at the wrist—and this requires surgical removal treatment. A hand surgeon can usually remove such a growth on an outpatient basis. Several months may be needed for the nerve to fully heal and exercises may be recommended to help heal and restore full range of motion.