Injury at the elbow referred to as the funny bone or Irritation and inflammation of the nerve (“neuritis”) on the inside portion of the elbow (the ulnar nerve) can lead to elbow pain, and numbness, tingling, and weakness of the involved hand. If diagnosed early, the treatment is usually straightforward. However, if the condition is diagnosed very late, then surgery may be required. Surgery is rare , usually the little and index fingers are numb tingly and weak.
When the elbow is bent, the ulnar nerve is pulled over the bony portion of the elbow known as the medial epicondyle, sometimes called the “funny bone”. Keeping the elbow bent or leaning on it for long periods of time, as well as repetitively bending the elbow, can cause irritation of the nerve. Also, in some people, the nerve slides in and out behind the bone leading to irritation.
Prolonged or repetitive activities that cause the elbow to be bent
Swelling of the elbow joint
Arthritis of the elbow
Previous fractures or dislocations of the elbow
Numbness or tingling in the little and ring finger
Pain on the inside of the elbow
Grip weakness or difficulty with small movements such as typing
Touching the elbow will cause pain and tingling over the nerve.
Anti-inflammatory medications or turmeric can be used,to reduce swelling around the nerve.
A brace may be used at night to help keep the arm in a straight position.
Exercises may be given to help the nerve slide normally in the groove.
If the above treatments do not work or if the nerve is compressed, the doctor may recommend surgical treatment. That is rare.
Activities that lead to repetitive bending at the elbow, or activities that cause the elbow to be bent for long periods of time, should be avoided.
Too much driving or elbow resting on a hard surface.
The elbow should not be rested in a bent position for long periods, like when using a computer or driving a car, with the arm resting on the open window.
If symptoms are mild, a towel loosely wrapped around the elbow at night can help keep the elbow from bending.
Return to activities
After a 2-3 week pain-free period, personmay begin to gradually return to their activities.
AMSSM Member Authors
Dustin W. Lash, DO and Tracy Ray, MD