Ulnar nerve entrapment is a common cause of arm and wrist pain. The ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in the arm, and runs from the neck down the forearm to the hand. Compression of the ulnar nerve can lead to pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the arm, elbow, wrist, fingers, and hand. This nerve compression can occur at the wrist, beneath the collarbone, or in the cervical spine (neck), where the nerve exits from the spinal cord.
Many cases of ulnar nerve compression can be relieved with conservative treatments such exercise, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, and splints. For patients looking for additional non-drug, noninvasive treatments, a recent case study suggests that chiropractic could help.
The case study involved a 41-year old woman who presented at a chiropractic clinic with muscle weakness and numbness in her right forearm and three most medial fingers. She reported experiencing these symptoms quite suddenly three weeks prior, and assumed that she had simply “slept wrong.”
Postural analysis showed the patient had slouched shoulders and moderate forward head carriage. The patient also had a symptomatic right elevated arm stress test, poor grip strength, and a Tinnel sign of nerve irritation at the cubital tunnel.
Chiropractors treated the woman with manipulative therapy, myofascial therapy, and elastic therapeutic taping. The patient also performed at-home exercises and made improvements to her workstation ergonomics based on advice from the chiropractors. After the first treatment, she had immediate improvements in weakness and numbness. Her symptoms resolved completely after eleven treatments. She was able to resume working without any dysfunction.
Although more research is needed to confirm these results, the case study suggests that chiropractic care could be a viable option for patients with symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment. Chiropractic treatments can also ease compression of the median nerve, the primary cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ulnar Nerve Entrapment at the Elbow (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome)- OrthoInfo: AAOS. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00069. Accessed October 10, 2013.
Illes JD, and Johnson TL. Chiropractic management of patient with ulnar nerve compression symptoms: a case report. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2013; 12 (2): 66-73.