Detroit Tigers pitcher, Tyson Ross, was placed on the 10-Day Injured List after an injury to his elbow. MOS physician Dr. Rachel Rohde, hand and upper extremity specialist, offered her insight on this injury and what one can expect when they have ulnar neuritis.
Ulnar neuritis is inflammation of the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve is what we usually think and speak of as the “funny bone.” It travels behind the bone on the inside of the elbow. This nerve is responsible for sensation in the pinky and part of the ring fingers, and it also supplies “electricity” to many of the muscles that control grip and pinch strength in the hand.
Sometimes, the nerve gets irritated or inflamed when we keep our elbows bent for a long period of time (for example, while sleeping). In other cases, the nerve can get stretched or aggravated with activities. Sometimes it even “subluxates” or “pops back and forth” over that bone when the elbow is bent and straightened. Injury or other conditions can cause this as well. This “blocks” the nerve from doing what it normally does.
When the ulnar nerve is irritated, a person can feel tingling, pins and needles, or “numbness” in the pinky and ring fingers; this feels like “the fingers are falling asleep.” This also can cause weakness of grip and pinch.
First treatments usually include avoiding the activities that cause or worsen this. A splint might be worn to keep the elbow from bending during sleep or even to rest the nerve during the day. Athletes might be rested to try to calm this down. Some find comfort with anti-inflammatory medication, heat or ice, occupational hand therapy, including “nerve gliding” exercises. A “nerve study” might be done to see how much the nerve is being affected. If the problem persists, a surgery to improve the nerve function is considered.
Click here for more information on the injury of Tyson Ross.