Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome Pain Relief Exercises

Hand and wrist pain can be bothersome, especially if you use your hands at work all day. When do you decide to have the pain examined by a doctor? If you’re experiencing wrist pain, you may be suffering from ulnar tunnel syndrome. To be sure, you should see a hand and wrist specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. After treatment, you can perform several ulnar tunnel syndrome exercises to get your wrist back in tip-top shape and keep it there.

What Is Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

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Ulnar tunnel syndrome impacts the wrist and happens when the ulnar nerve squeezes between the wrist and hand in a space called Guyon’s canal. The ulnar nerve runs from your hand to your neck and is relatively large. The ulnar nerve controls some hand functions and movements. The ulnar nerve is not protected anywhere by the bones and muscles in your hand and wrist, so injuries to this nerve are common. If you’ve ever hit your funny bone and experienced the tingly sensation that follows, that is your ulnar nerve that you hit.

What Are Symptoms of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

You may not notice ulnar tunnel syndrome symptoms immediately, as they often develop over time. The symptoms may also progressively get worse, making them more noticeable. Common symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome include:

What Causes Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

You can develop ulnar tunnel syndrome in a variety of ways, such as repetitive pressure or trauma to the hand. Certain activities, including weightlifting and cycling, can create the pressure required to cause ulnar tunnel syndrome. Jobs that utilize vibrating tools can also lead to ulnar tunnel syndrome. The presence of a ganglion cyst can also cause ulnar tunnel syndrome. A ganglion cyst is a lump of fluid forming a noncancerous cyst. Risk factors for developing ulnar tunnel syndrome include:

How Is Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

If you suspect that you may have ulnar tunnel syndrome, you’ll want to see your medical provider right away. Your doctor will complete a thorough exam, including medical history, physical exam, and examination of your hand, wrist, and elbow. They will also typically perform a test called nerve conduction study (NCS) to determine nerve damage. This test is performed by stimulating the nerve, usually with electrode patches connected to the skin, and measuring the time it takes to respond. Additionally, your medical provider may want to order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Imaging can usually rule out other medical issues that could be causing your symptoms.

What Are the Treatment Options for Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome?

If a ganglion or cyst causes your ulnar tunnel syndrome, you may require surgery to remove the cysts and treat the syndrome. Other causes can sometimes be treated with non-surgical treatments, which are faster, safer, and easier, although they may not be as effective.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Occupational and physical therapies may alleviate some of your symptoms. You can also try hand and wrist massage therapy. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help reduce the pain you’re experiencing. A wrist brace or splint may also be beneficial. Another way to help treat ulnar tunnel syndrome is to use ergonomic tools, which reduce the pressure on your hands and wrists.

Surgical Treatments

If a cyst or ganglion is causing your ulnar tunnel syndrome, your doctor may wish to have it removed to keep it from applying pressure to your wrist or elbow. If the culprit is another type of growth or scar tissue, it may also need to be removed via surgery. Another surgery option alleviates the pressure by snipping a ligament. Your medical professional will discuss your options with you and help you determine which treatment is best. After surgery, you will go through a rehabilitation period with specific exercises for the recovery process.

What Exercises Help Alleviate Symptoms at Home?

If your ulnar tunnel syndrome is caused by factors that are not treatable with surgery, there are several exercises you can do at home to alleviate the symptoms. These exercises slide, stretch, and move the nerve to encourage smoother movements to help reduce the weakness and pain in your hand and wrist. Examples of these exercises include:

Avoid overstretching the ulnar nerve. If you experience pain or increased pain while working through exercises at home, consult your doctor before continuing. You can apply an ice pack to the area prior to exercising to help alleviate pain during exercising. Work on building your strength slowly by gradually increasing the number of repetitions of each exercise. Consult with your physician or physical therapist for advice on an appropriate number of repetitions. You may find that frequent, short sessions of just five to 10 minutes are less painful and more beneficial than longer sessions.

Some aching or discomfort in your hand and wrist after these exercises is normal, but if the pain is severe or lingers, you may be performing them too forcefully or too often. Try reducing frequency and intensity to see if that reduces the amount of discomfort. If it doesn’t, consult your medical professional.

Contact the Hand and Wrist Institute

If you’re experiencing hand or wrist pain that you think might be ulnar tunnel syndrome or would like to have it evaluated for a diagnosis, reach out to the knowledgeable team at the Hand and Wrist Institute today. You can reach us at 855-558-4263 or via our secure online messaging service. A team member would be happy to answer your questions or get you set up with an appointment.

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.