Is my ulnar nerve healing?
May 12, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

I was diagnosed with Ulnar Nerve Neuropathy (cubital tunnel syndrome). Is the sensation in my hand a sign of nerve healing, or do I need a second opinion?

YANAD. Three weeks ago, the ulnar side of my hand went numb. I was referred to a neurologist who performed an EMG and a nerve conduction test, and he diagnosed me with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. He said it was not severe and that I did not need surgery. I've since changed my habits and keep my elbow as straight as possible.

The tests were a week ago, and since then, I've felt some unusual sensations in my palm: crawling sensations and a splinter-like sensation around the muscles in the ulnar side of my palm. It is not painful, just weird and did not occur until after the neurological testing. It happens randomly throughout the day.

With internet research I've found on only a few message board posts that these are symptoms of nerve healing or regeneration.

My questions: Could "mild" CTS cause nerve damage, and could my nerve be healing? Has anyone had experience with this? I was under the impression that nerve damage points to a more serious injury that likely needs to be resolved via surgery.

Any insight would be appreciated before I decide to see another neurologist.
posted by alligatorman to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it an option to go back to see your original neurologist, or possibly to call him? At least try calling his clinic--he might well phone back and you can ask your doctor this question.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:11 AM on May 12, 2012

I have been diagnosed with the same thing, and my neurologist said it would take six months before I would see any real, noticeable improvement.

It's been about 2 months since I changed my work habits to relieve pressure on my ulnar nerve (I use a standing desk), and I'm noticing slow improvements. I am very slowly regaining sensation in my pinky and ring fingers, as well as the side of my hand. I've also regained dexterity in my index finger (at the start of the year I had difficulty holding a fork or buttoning a shirt. I haven't really regained muscle mass with my hand, though.

In fact, regaining the use of my index finger happened fairly quickly after switching to a standing desk, so maybe you are already reaping the benefits.

My wife suffered a herniated disc a couple of years ago. It took her 6 months to regain sensation and movement, and from what I gather issues with a compressed ulnar nerve are kind of similar. So sensation should come back.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 AM on May 12, 2012

I actually asked an old friend of mine who is a neurologist about CTS and surgery (initially I was worried I had ALS), by the way, and he said that surgery is a last resort, and that these days the treatment is almost entirely aimed at relieving pressure on the nerve. His via-Skype analysis was validated by my trip to a neurologist.

My friend the neurologist said that surgery is usually contemplated if there has been no real improvement after a year.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:58 AM on May 12, 2012

Thanks for the comments. Having done some further research, I think that what I'm experiencing is something separate from cubital tunnel syndrome, since I can reproduce the symptoms by raising my arm above my head, elbow straight, and there's now sensation in all fingers rather than just ulnar.

The internet is diagnosing me with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but obviously I'll get a second opinion.
posted by alligatorman at 11:27 AM on May 12, 2012

alligatorman, check out Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Self-Care Program. It's basically a new way to stretch and she has exercises for all kinds of symptoms.

I started getting numbness and tingling in my hands and pain in my forearms many years ago and I found that all the diagnoses were way too specific. Cubital tunnel syndrome describes a nerve impingement in one place, carpal tunnel another, TOS still another -- but it seems to be more of a systemic issue. I get tight in various places from neck to shoulder to arms to wrists and that causes the nerve issues. The answer is for me was to become aware of my body and learn how to relax those tight places, wherever they might be. The book I listed above was great, but yoga, gentle swedish massage (NOT deep tissue, which aggravated things), and active-isolated stretching also helped. Today I use a combination of these things whenever I have issues: AIS for my pecs, yoga-like stretching for my neck, yoga breathing and mindfulness for general tension, and exercises from that book for forearms.

I'd recommend getting a massage or two and just trying to really loosen up your chest, neck, and in general.
posted by callmejay at 9:57 AM on May 13, 2012

You are feeling paresthesias. Given what you've told us, they are a good thing.
posted by karlos at 3:34 PM on May 13, 2012

« Older I Can't See the Pretty Pictures   |   To Serve Fur-kind: Name that cookbook Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.