“It’s Not Funny”

Written by admin on March 8, 2013 – 12:24 pm -

Have you ever hit your “funny bone”? You know that spot on the elbow that causes a stabbing pain/ tingling (parathesia) down into your forearm and hand. In fact, when you hit the inner side of your elbow the sensation is anything but funny, right? The temporary tingling, stabbing pain, and inability to move wrist/ fingers comes from an ulnar nerve contusion (bruise), not an injury to the bone.

The ulnar nerve runs through an area in the elbow called the cubital tunnel, and when the elbow is flexed this area opens up so that the nerve is stretched and minimally protected by soft tissue. The nerve lies on top of bone, and is only protected from the outside by your skin in this position, therefore most ulnar nerve contusions will occur when the elbow is flexed instead of extended.

This nerve innervates muscles that move the forearm, wrist and fingers, while also providing sensation to the inner forearm, pinky side of the palm, and palmar aspects of the medial fourth and fifth digits (inside of ring and pinky fingers).

Ulnar nerve contusions may result in symptoms of varying duration, but usually things will return to normal with time. Icing the area should be done with caution (due to the superficial nature of the nerve), anti-inflammatories may be helpful, and upon return to activity one may wish to invest in padding for the area.

The ulnar nerve (at the elbow) can also be irritated in patients with medial epicondylitis, ulnar collateral ligament injuries, ulnar nerve entrapment, elbow fractures/ dislocations, or in some cases people have been known to experience a subluxation of the nerve.

Mary Sult (LAT, ATC) is a Certified Athletic Trainer at Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina. Mary regularly provides outreach services to Bunn High School (Bunn, NC). OSNC’s Sports Medicine staff also works with other schools and sports organizations in Franklin, Granville, Wake, and Vance counties. For more information please visit www.orthonc.com.

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