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Forum Name: Neurology Topics

Question: Ulnar Nerve compression, Worse after drink alcohol


 heyitsme! - Fri May 29, 2009 5:25 pm

Hey all,

I went to sleep perfect health one night and woke up with numb ring/little fingers/half my palm. After a few days I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a compressed ulnar nerve @ my elbo, and some "slowing" from my wrist to my ring finger/little finger. I had the nerve test done, this is how they found out the areas where I'm compressed. He had me on some meds for a month or so, but they didn't help (I'm at work I'll get the names when I get home). He also told me to use splints while sleeping to keep my elbow straight, also I haven't been resting my elbow on anything other than my leg 95% of the time. Its been about five months and its only getting progressively worse.

A big difference I noticed in levels of numbness is after a drank the other day. I don't drink very often at all, and when I do, its usually not much. This time though I got very drunk, woke up the next day and my left hand is more numb now, than before unfortunately.

I've been to two doctors about this, orthopedics, and both of them want to do surgery, which I don't think I can do. I only hear horror stories about surgery and it scares me.

I've read that cortisone injections can help, but neither doctor offered it, so I assume its not very effective. Is there anything else that may help other than the dreaded surgery? My hand is still very strong and not clawing, just numb.

A little more about me, I drink water all the time (about one gallon a day) I work out - weight lifting (can this hurt me more than help?), I'm in great shape, I take lots of vitamins etc. I just don't know what to do, its so frustrating.

Thanks
Heyitsme!
 heyitsme! - Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:39 pm

Hello,

The medicine I was on was called napraxin (spelling?) this didn't help at all. I've done a bit of research and a med I can take is ibuprofen (to reduce swelling/inflammation). I went to the pharmacy and the pharmacist told me that I need aleve because it has an active ingredient to do what the ibuprofen is claimed to do. She said that she doesn't know why anyone would suggest ibuprofen for these reasons. So I'm taking aleve now, I just started yesterday.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Mon Jul 06, 2009 11:42 pm

User avatar Hi there --

What you describe is classic ulnar palsy, almost always due to a compression of some part of the ulnar nerve, and usually in or just above the elbow. Sometimes it can also be compressed at the nerve outlet between C7 and T1 vertebrae, but if you've been diagnosed by nerve conduction testing as having it at the elbow then that's likely where it is, and the locus can often be narrowed down pretty well that way, making surgery usually very minor and equally usually successful. If it were at the C-spine I'd be a little more reticent about having it done, but with a good neurosurgeon it should at worst just be ineffective. It rarely makes things worse and usually resolves what can become a very annoying problem over time, as the muscle in the lateral (outside) edge of your hand begins to waste and you start to experience weakened grip and begin dropping things, having difficulty, writing, etc. It sometimes, but very rarely, corrects on its own.

As for the worsening after having a drink, while this sometimes makes the entire nervous system a little sluggish, it really wouldn't have any lasting effect on the problem we're talking about, so it is likely coincidental and just getting more pronounced, which is it usually does over time. I would, however, have a neurosurgeon work you up for this, not an orthopedist, since the problem involves a nerve which may need to be moved a little, and if there's mechanical compression then an ortho may well be brought in to work along with the neuro.

Steroid injections (in the spinal column, or spinal steroid injections, SSI) are sometimes helpful when the problem is due to nerve root compression at the cervical spine. Otherwise it's unlikely to be of much help at all.

Ulnar compression can be a very frustrating problem, and one that often progresses to the point where a disability actually exists, so it would be good to have the thing assessed by a neurologist and surgery considered. If it's in the elbow it's most likely to have a good outcome, and the improvement can be dramatic. Otherwise the thing is just crazymaking.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck to you and please follow up here as needed.

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