When Hammering Jack first made an appointment with the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, he was wretched. Over the past couple of months, he had started experiencing strange sensations in his hand and elbow. He had pain and numbness in his elbow, tingling in his fingers, and the worst part for Hammering Jack was that his grip seemed to get weaker. This was extremely unsettling to Hammering Jack because he worked at a construction site where his tasks required heavy hand usage, such as jackhammering. Hammering Jack loved his job and he was known as the best jackhammer operator in the entire construction site because his hands were strong and he was able to put enough force on the tool. He didn’t even want to think about what would happen if he had to give up his profession, so he decided that the best thing to do would be to go see a hand specialist before the situation got even worse.
“These symptoms are really preventing me from doing my job properly. And the worst part is, I think they might be causing danger to other people, too. The other day, the jackhammer slipped from my hands and hammered its way across the entire construction site,” Hammering Jack explained to his doctor at the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas. “I am starting to get desperate, do you know what’s wrong with me?” he added. “Well,” the doctor said, “your symptoms, the pain, numbness, and tingling in your hand and elbow combined with the weakness in your grip, lead me to believe that you might be suffering from a condition called ulnar neuropathy. Typically, patients who suffer from ulnar neuropathy have jobs or hobbies that require heavy hand usage, such as baseball pitchers, receptionists, or construction workers who use jackhammers. However, I would like to conduct a physical examination and a nerve test to confirm your diagnosis.”
The test results confirmed what the doctor had suspected, Hammering Jack was suffering from ulnar neuropathy. Ulnar neuropathy occurs when the ulnar nerve, an important nerve that provides strength to the hand, becomes compressed. The ulnar nerve runs all the way from the neck to the elbow and from the elbow to the hand. The nerve compression can happen in any of the three areas, neck, elbow, or hand, but Hammering Jack’s test results showed that his symptoms were caused by nerve compression in his elbow where the ulnar nerve passes through a small tunnel called the cubital tunnel. That is why ulnar neuropathy is also known as cubital tunnel syndrome.
“So,” Hammering Jack said, “now that we know what’s causing my symptoms, what treatment options do we have?” The doctor explained to Hammering Jack that ulnar neuropathy can be managed with conservative treatment options such as rest, splints, and anti-inflammatories. However, these treatments rarely solve the problem and, since Hammering Jack had also started experiencing weakening of his grip, his condition was entering a more severe level. The doctor told Hammering Jack that an endoscopic cubital tunnel release would be the best option for him to decompress the ulnar nerve and find long-term relief from the symptoms.
“Is…is that a surgery?” Hammering Jack asked, terrified. He was known as the tough guy at work but he had never had a surgery before and the idea scared him. The doctor explained to Hammering Jack that an endoscopic cubital tunnel release was a minimally invasive procedure. The pressured nerve is decompressed through a small incision in the elbow with the help of endoscopic equipment. Compared to an open procedure, in which the opening can be 6 inches or even bigger, the endoscopic cubital tunnel release is less invasive, which allows the patient to recover faster. Yet, the endoscopic procedure produces equally good results as an open surgery.
All of this information calmed Hammering Jack, and he decided to go through with the procedure. Jack was able to go home the same day but the doctor told him to take it easy for a couple of days and not to use his hand or elbow to help him recover properly. Also, Jack would need to stay away from jackhammering and other heavy work duties for at least two weeks. Finally, the doctor recommended physical therapy for Jack to restore the strength of his hand. Now, after the recovery time and the completion of his physical therapy program, Jack is back to work, hammering away just like he used to. The pain and numbness from his elbow and the tingling from his fingers are gone and his hand feels stronger than ever.
Do Jack’s symptoms sound all too familiar? The sooner you seek treatment, the better ulnar neuropathy can be treated before it reaches a severe level. Make an appointment with us today and take back the strength in your hands!