The hand is supplied by three main nerves, the radial, median and ulnar nerves. Each nerve takes a different path from the neck down into the arm and hand. They pass through a series of tunnels which can be points of compression, which in turn can cause numbness and tingling.
The Ulnar Nerve
The ulnar nerve passes down the inner side of the upper arm and travels between the olecranon and medial epicondyle through the cubital tunnel. This is commonly referred to as the ‘funny bone.’ When you knock it, it is NOT funny and it’s NOT a bone!
The nerve can become compressed here from prolonged elbow flexion like talking on the phone or from leaning on the elbow, causing numbness and tingling in the little and ring fingers.
Conditions Associated with the Ulnar Nerve
The ulnar nerve then continues down the arm and hand towards the little finger. In the palm it passes through Guyon’s canal. If you find your pisiform bone (prominent bone at base of the wrist on little finger side) and put your thumb on a 45 degree angle towards your palm from there, you might feel a bony prominence in the palm. This is the hook of hamate which forms part of the Guyon’s canal that the ulnar nerve passes through.
The nerve can become compressed here from direct pressure, such as holding onto tools or riding a bike. Compression here can cause numbness in the ring and little fingers but more commonly causes weakness in the small muscles of your hand.
A hand therapist can assess your arm and determine where the nerve is being compressed. Hand therapy treatment may include nerve gliding exercises, splinting, avoiding positions of compression, activity modification, reducing pain and swelling.
Contact us today if you are experiencing any numbness or pins and needles to be individually assessed and a treatment plan can be designed for your needs.