Hitting your elbow at just the right angle will lead to an explosion of pain and tingling in your arm down to your fingers. Some people say they hit their “funny bone,” and others may call it the “crazy bone.” No matter what you call it, it is not a bone, and the pain you are feeling is not funny!
What happens when you feel those sensations is a compression of the ulnar nerve. This nerve runs from the neck all the way to the hand. It innervates muscles in the forearm and several of the muscles in the hand. It extends into the little finger and half the of the ring finger. Bumping your elbow in a particular way causes the nerve to be compressed on bone. This leads to the pain, tingling and numbness you feel.
An Unprotected Area
The ulnar nerve is protected by bone for most of its length. The elbow is the only place where the nerve does not have protection. At this point the nerve passes through the cubital tunnel. Here it is only protected by fat and skin.
Generally, when the ulnar nerve is irritated, the symptoms leave within a matter of minutes. The discomfort is short and temporary. However, when the irritation comes from an obstruction, the pain can be long-lasting. Continued irritation can lead to permanent numbness. Muscle weakness in the forearm and the fingers may also appear. Proper medical attention can reverse the symptoms.
Bumping the elbow is one thing, but a fall or blow can lead to a fracture of one of the bones at the elbow joint. Movement of the elbow may still be possible even with a fracture. Anytime you have an injury to your elbow and feel pain, it is best to seek medical care in the event that one of more of the bones may be fractured.
Dr. Steven Struhl offers advanced treatment options for elbow pain. Call for a consultation.