I was wondering if anyone has experience of ulnar nerve displacement?

Question: I was wondering if anyone has experience of ulnar nerve displacement, and if so, are there any positive experiences of treatment for it?

I’m a left-handed 26-year-old writer and musician. It started 6 years ago with an acute bout of tendonitis (after too much guitar-playing) in my left arm, in the area characterized by my GP as “golfer’s elbow”, i.e. inside-forearm, just below the elbow.

This was cleared up by ultrasound. However it turned out that my ulnar nerve (the “funny bone” nerve) had somehow been wrenched out of its bony groove along the way and was now slipping over my elbow every time the arm was bent. It does to this day.

Much indecisive physio later, I finally got to see a rheumatologist at St Thomas’, whose laughable suggestion was that he cut my arm open and move the whole nerve round to the inside-forearm, with “possible loss of sensitivity and movement in the fingers”. Naturally, I made my excuses and left, thoroughly disappointed.Since then I’ve had more indecisive physio, acupuncture, cervical manipulation etc.

Current symptoms: mostly constant pain in elbow and left shoulder/neck with occasional shooting pains up arms; particularly stiff and aching shoulder; occasional tingling in 4th and 5th fingers; commonly whole arm is numb on waking up.

Contrary to advice from physios, I find that regular fairly heavy exercise (press-ups, pull-ups etc) significantly decreases pain and stiffness; if I go a week without doing any, the whole arm really starts to seize up.

So – anyone had anything similar?  Many thanks for any advice/help,

Answer 1: I have had rsi type symptoms for the last 3 yrs – possible problems with median & ulnar nerves. I find that keeping fit is vital to managing my symptoms. This includes running regularly & gym work. The theory behind this is by exercising you increase the oxygen capacity of your musculature and thus the strength of your holding muscles.

This would be especially beneficial for your neck muscles which after all have a tremendous load to carry i.e. your head. BUT BE CAREFUL IF YOU TRY THE GYM – too much load can aggravate the problem – I know from experience !  (I am not a medic nor a physio but find the above alleviates some of my problems – if only temporarily.)

Answer 2: I have a slight problem with the ulnar nerve in my left arm (left handed as well!) but this is due to the nerve getting squashed in the groove round the elbow. Probably a similar problem to you, in that the groove is too small to protect the nerve when i lean on my left elbow, whereas for you the groove is too small to keep the nerve in place. I have to be cautious about pinching the nerve, this includes exercising the left arm.

When i do have problems, having ultrasound treatment of the nerve in the groove is the only thing that improves it.  Your stiff and aching shoulder/neck may have nothing to do with your ulnar nerve problem. It could be your neck causing problems with the nerves to this area – see a chiropractor/osteopath to get this checked out. It could also be (probably is) bad posture – again see a chiropractor/osteopath and try the Alexander Technique as this is particularly good for improving posture.

Answer 3: You wrote about a problem with the ulnar nerve. I’ve developed a very specific pain in my left elbow (through keyboarding), to add to my other aches and pains…  I’ve read somewhere about nerves becoming ‘tethered’, or stuck, e.g. to neighboring bones. Do you know anything about this?

Apparently, one treatment is to do specific stretching exercises with the aim of dislodging the nerve. I’ve asked to be referred to a physio, for general advice about exercises.  Have you (or anyone else on the list) any experience of ‘tethering’ and / or helpful treatments? Or is this a controversial diagnosis?

Answer 4: The sort of stretches you need to be taught are those for Adverse Neural Tension/Adverse Neural Dynamics. A physio who knows these is the best person to see for RSI nerve problems.

Answer 5: It sounds like Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There are four areas the brachial plexus (peripheral nerve supply to the arm)can be compromised one of them is where the peck minor (press ups) cuts across the plexus in the anterior/lateral part of the shoulder just below the clavicle, there may be tenderness in this area and pressure may reproduce the symptoms. Treatment is trigger point therapy, and correcting the cause of the trigger point; Physical, chemical, or emotional irritants to the nervous system.

Answer 6: The ultrasound treatment is the normal ultrasound physios use to treat swelling etc. I had it done to the path the nerve follows through the groove in the elbow plus about two inches above and below the elbow. When ultra sounding nerves it is a case of a little goes a long way – too much ultrasound probably doesn’t help. The physio used pulsed ultrasound and not for too long.

The first time I had it done was in 1993, I had four treatments and they seemed to reduce the symptoms for about a week. They did by the end reduce the overall symptoms permanently.

The second time, this year, was as a result of an acute injury to the nerve in the elbow (my chiropractor ‘crunched’ the elbow) as it is rather sensitive to pressure. Just a single treatment of ultrasound reduced symptoms enough not to warrant another treatment. As I was also having problems with the nerves in my neck/shoulder after a general anesthetic and operation I feel it was partly a ‘double crush’ injury, eventually solved by taking the weight off my shoulders every couple of hours by resting my arms on a table.  In both cases I was also having ANT/AND stretches done by the physio as well.


I was wondering if anyone has experience of ulnar nerve displacement? — 3 Comments

  1. I have the same problem. I think mine was the result of sleeping on my side with a pillow between my arms. My wrists would curl around the pillow -- I think this strecthed the ulnar nerve because I would wake up with a numb ring finger and pinky. when I realized this I got rid of the pillow and the numbness stopped. I also realized that I was leaning my elbows on everything (cars, desks, at the bar, etc) so I stopped that too. However, my elbows and forearms still hurt.

    Went to a great doctor who told me to wear cho-pat or futuro straps around my arms just above the elbow. This will allow you full range of motion while holding the nerve in place so that it doesn’t slide across the elbow bone. You will need to make the adjsutable straps not too tight but not too loose. Just a little pressure is all you need to keep them above the elbow while holding the nerve in place. Seems to work for the most part. Another doctor told me to wear a soft elbow pad (from drug store or Sporting Good Store) around the elbow. Haven’t tried this yet but as soon as I find them at the store I will try them out.
    I’m not a doctor but I believe that if you wear the straps or the elbow pad for several weeks, the nerves will calm down enough where they aren’t raw and hurting all the tim from being dragged across the bone. This may also help the nerve stay in its groove if it was being overstretched from your arm constantly being bent.

    Again, I am not a doctor and I just started doing this so I will try to keep you up to speed on how it is working. You may want to try it out yourself, what have you got to lose? Posted on 9/23/12.

  2. me not so happy any more I had this surgery almost two weeks ago. they wont give me anything stronger than 5 /325 even thought I am on Methadone for a 4 disced disc that left me with a titaiim plate in my nect. I am used to that medication for that pain,, Now I am having increasing pain I cannot seem to get it to heal because it is an elbow it bends and I can t keep it perfect does it get better???

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