Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cell Phone Elbow

Ok, so I felt the need to pick an easy one today because I am whooped... and had limited research time this week. I can't wait to get to the good stuff, the meat of it all, but I still have a couple of docs to see and talk to that will hopefully give me a some very useful tips! So, in light of that, I am going to do my best to present to you Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome ie- Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

With Cubital Tunnel Syndrome the ulnar nerve gets compressed along the outer edge of the elbow. There are a great many other causes of ulnar nerve entrapment that can cause symptoms similar to those of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome depending on where the nerve is being compressed, including cervical spine issues, compression of the ulnar nerve in the wrist, infections, rheumatoid arthritis, tumors compressing the nerve, brachial plexus palsy, etc etc.

The difference in diagnosis in actual cubital tunnel syndrome vs. ulnar nerve entrapment depends on where the offending compression is taking place.

In mine the neurologist ran his fingers along the ulnar nerve at my elbows and pressed hard, and the result of this was pain in my elbows and numbness/tingling of the pinky and ring fingers and that side of the hand.

Essentially the ulnar nerve is being repetitively compressed somewhere along its track, and the ultimate symptoms are numbness and tingling of the pinky, ring finger, and the back of the hand over the pinky..

With long term compression comes long term damage, as with any nerve compression. Eventually the hand will become weak and the tingling will become total numbness constantly. After significant compression and time the ring finger and pinky finger will curl up as shown in the picture, called a ulnar claw. This is a sign of significant nerve damage

Treatment depends on the source of the nerve entrapment. Surgery may be required for entrapment caused by cervical or thoracic spine disease. In the case of cubital tunnel syndrome the treatment can be as simple as retraining the individual to position properly. Nerve compression can be caused in this case by sleeping with elbows curled in very tight to the body, simple treatment would be to sleep "hugging" a pillow. Other pinching can be caused by propping elbows against hard surfaces like desks and tables.

Who knew a little etiquette could go a long way!

Whether the damage is lasting, or completely resolves depends on how much damage was done from the entrapment.

So, here's another something to think about... Hand-held cell phones require the elbow to be bent, hand up to the ear almost constantly while in use, and multiple times a day for the most people... That is why cubital tunnel syndrome has been coined as "Cell Phone Elbow"...

Once again, this is nowhere near med school all inclusive, of course med school is apparently not all inclusive either, or more docs would know how to treat EDS.....

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