Have you ever felt the tingling, numbness and weakness sensation after bending your elbow for an extended period of time (read: multiple attempt at selfies) ? The fact is that the bone in your arms is called the humerus (read: humorous). No pun intended, but hey, that is how they are called funny bone!
Funny bone is actually our ulnar nerve, it spreads from the neck down to the end of our pinky finger and half of our ring finger. The nerve is commonly protected under the layers of bones, muscles and/or ligaments. Though this specific ulnar nerve locating at our elbow, which only covered by fats and skins.
We will experience this funny sensation or funny bone by hitting or compressing the nerve against bone. When you bend your elbow, the ulnar nerve must stretch around the bony ridge of the medial epicondyle. Because this stretching can irritate the nerve, keeping your elbow bent for long periods or repeatedly bending your elbow can cause painful symptoms.
For example, many people sleep with their elbows bent. This can aggravate symptoms of ulnar nerve compression and cause you to wake up at night with your fingers asleep. This also goes for playing guitar, smoking and using a cell phone, a risk factor for the development of ulnar nerve compression by bending elbows.
In some cases, the tunnel where the nerve passes through can be narrowed by ganglion or by bony spurs or thickened joint synovium from elbow arthritis or by an old injury or fractures.
Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger are common symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment. The intensity of funny sensation varies on numbness, tingling and pain and often, these symptoms come and go. They happen more frequently when the elbow is bent.
The worst case scenario when this turns to the habit of bending their hands while holding mobile phones with your shoulder and head or folding your arm during sleep and causing the feeling of “falling asleep” in the ring finger and little finger. In some cases, it may be harder to move your fingers in and out, or to manipulate objects.
This habit leads to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome; where muscle weakens at the forearm and becomes ulnar claw, which pinkies and ring finger curl up. Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most common peripheral nerve entrapment syndrome in the human body. It is the cause of considerable pain and disability for patients. This is almost similar yet very different from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which will be discussed continuously to this write-up. Stay tuned!