Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ulnar nerve impingement

Most hand crafters have heard of carpel tunnel syndrome, however I have discovered another chronic wrist problem that I think deserves some attention.  You see, the carpel tunnel nerves only control half of your hand -- the thumb, fore finger, and middle finger.  The pinky and ring fingers are controlled by another nerve entirely, the ulnar nerve.  This nerve runs through the elbow along the ulna (one of the bones of the fore arm).

Why am I talking about this?  Because I have it!  And to be effective, you have to treat it differently than if you had CTS.  The main reason for this is because the ulnar nerve is usually pinched off not at the wrist (where you feel it), but in the elbow.  That's why I am typing this from far, far away from my computer, in order to keep my elbow straight.  Immobilizing the wrist can help UNI, but it will not make it all the way better.  My tips:
  • Wear a wrist brace AND elbow brace at night, keeping those joints straight, as long as you have pain.  It's annoying, but it really helps.
  • Ice baths.  I recommend this for carpel tunnel, too.  Fill the sink with cold water, and float some frozen water bottles in it.  Get it as cold as you can!  Then dunk your hand and arm (up to the elbow) in your little ice lake for five seconds.  No more!   Repeat frequently as long as you have pain.
  • Go to this website.  They have a series of exercises that seem to help a lot.
  • Pause often while crafting to rest and stretch your shoulder, elbow, and wrist.
  • Don't be afraid to go to your doctor!  This is the next step for me.  Don't assume that they will just want you to have surgery.  There are a number of therapy options for UNI.  In fact, surgery is seen as an absolute last resort, and is usually only recommended if you have muscular degeneration in the area.
So take care of your hands and arms!  Rest them if they are sore!  Don't end up like me, unable to crochet until my arm feels better!

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