Using PRP Injections to Treat Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
We’ve all been there. Somehow, and often out of nowhere, you hit your elbow in just the right spot to cause severe pain to shoot up and down your arm. This pain occurs whether you barely hit your elbow or when you really smack it against something. Why? The pain you feel when you hit your funny bone is one unlike any other. What causes that not so funny feeling you get when you hit your funny bone? And what do you do if the pain that you feel when you hit your funny bone is intolerable?
When you hit your funny bone, you’re not actually hitting a bone at all. Instead, you’re hitting a nerve. The specific nerve that causes the odd pain associated with hitting your funny bone is your ulnar nerve. It is one of the three central nerves in your arm. The ulnar nerve starts running down your body at the back of your neck and ends in your hand. Like most of the nerves in your body, the ulnar nerve is protected for most of its length. However, there are some vulnerable spots where the ulnar nerve can be bumped and bruised. One of these vulnerable areas where the ulnar nerve is susceptible to compression is in the elbow.
When the ulnar nerve is compressed, it sends shooting, tingling pain and numbness through the arm.
You often feel this pain travel down the forearm before it spreads into the hand and specifically your ring and pinky fingers. This is where the ulnar nerve does most of its work, so the pain follows that path. Often the pain dissipates as quickly as it arises, but what if it didn’t?
The pain of hitting your funny bone is jarring. On the same level as stubbing your toe, when it happens, it seems to be the worst thing in the world. However, for some, that pain never goes away but instead becomes a constant chronic pain. This problem is called cubital tunnel syndrome and arises when the ulnar nerve is continuously compressed.
Signs of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Continuous compression of the ulnar nerve can result in cubital tunnel syndrome, but what are the signs? The signs of cubital tunnel syndrome match the symptoms of hitting your funny bone, but last much longer.
The most common signs include:
- Numbness in the forearm, hand, and fingers that quickly appears and lingers
- Sudden pain that occurs when the elbow is bent and continues to radiate
- A tingling sensation that arises and lasts abnormally longer
These symptoms can often lead to even more irritation that results in the numbness being consistent and settling in to the hand and forearm. In severe situations, the numbness can result in muscle weakness that settles in the forearm and hand. This can further lead to some patients developing the “ulnar claw” where the pinky and ring finger curl up in response to extensive numbness.
How to Relieve Pressure on the Ulnar Nerve
There are a few medical approaches to relieving pressure on the ulnar nerve and healing cubital tunnel syndrome. More often than not, splinting the elbow keeps the affected arm straight and relieves pressure on the nerve. Splinting the elbow not only keeps the arm straight, but also prevents patients from making repetitive movements that could further irritate the ulnar nerve.
If splinting and pressure relief does not alleviate the ulnar nerve pressure, anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. Surgery is another option for those suffering from chronic pain as a result of cubital tunnel syndrome. However, there are other medical approaches that are not as common but may offer pain relief. One of these, which Dr. Stacie Grossfeld offers in Louisville, KY, are PRP injections.
PRP, or Platelet Rich Plasma, injections are used to help a wide variety of conditions such as tennis elbow, achilles tendonitis, and osteoarthritis. While PRP injections are most often used to relieve joint pain they can also help with cubital tunnel syndrome, as well.
PRP injections are injections of plasma – the liquid part of your blood – with more platelets injected into it. The platelets in our blood promote healing. PRP injections have a higher concentration of platelets which help fight inflammation and pain. PRP injections are known to treat chronic pain, chronic injuries, and can even help with pain management post surgery.
Chronic pain of any form should not be tolerated. Chronic pain, such as cubital tunnel syndrome, that affects the functionality of your hands and the comfort of your day-to-day life should be treated immediately. If splinting isn’t working and pain medication isn’t helping, consider speaking to your medical provider about PRP injections. They can help to alleviate the pain and allow you to return to your normal day-to-day life.
Dr. Stacie Grossfeld has over 25 years of experience as an orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in sports medicine. She is one of the only doctors in the Louisville, KY area to offer PRP injections at an affordable price regardless of insurance and medical coverage. If you are suffering from chronic pain due to a compressed ulnar nerve or other injury, call Orthopaedic Specialists at 502-212-2663 today to schedule an appointment.