If you have ever bumped your elbow and felt a tingling down your arm, you have hit your “funny bone.” However, anyone who has hit this area knows there really isn’t anything funny about it.
Interestingly enough, the “funny bone” isn’t even a bone. Actually, it is a nerve trapped between the elbow bone running down through your shoulder to your little finger called the ulnar nerve. This nerve communicates the feelings between your arms and hands to your brain.
Damaging the ulnar nerve can cause a loss of sensation and muscle weakness, known as ulnar nerve palsy. This condition affects the ability to make fine movements, perform routine tasks and is extremely painful. In severe cases, it can cause muscle wasting, or atrophy.
Another known injury to the ulnar nerve is cubital tunnel syndrome. It’s similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in the sense that both nerve injuries affect the hand, but carpal tunnel syndrome has to do with the median never. Cubital tunnel syndrome involves pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness or tingling, pain in the forearm and weakness in the hand.
Most of us use our hands and arms a considerable amount when working. Unlike most nerves in the body, the ulnar nerve is unprotected most of the way down, making injuries here more common.
Several work-related activities have been associated with ulnar never palsy. Lifting, working in tight places, digging, using handsaws or large power machinery, constant leaning on the elbow(s), shoveling, hammering and operation punching machines all make one more at risk to injuring the ulnar nerve.
Damage to the ulnar nerve can also result from a car accident, slipping and falling, repetitive arm movements or an accident involving machinery or equipment. Unlike a broken bone, nerve injuries require a significantly greater period to recover.
The best advice we can give you is that if you start to experience elbow pain is to stop doing the work you are doing and see a doctor ASAP. Often when you take a rest or do some physical therapy, the problem can be cured. If you think the problem is work related or might be you should notify your employer right away. If your doctor gives you restrictions you should follow them.
Because these injuries are usually the result of repetitive trauma they are often fought by insurance companies, but that should not discourage you. If your job activities contributed to your condition you likely have a case.
If you have any questions about elbow injuries at work or anything at all, please call us any time for a free consultation.