This is caused by a "pinched nerve." It can be a pinched nerve in your neck or a pinched nerve in your elbow. If it is a pinched nerve in your elbow it is called "cubital tunnel syndrome." In cubital tunnel syndrome the "ulnar nerve" or "funny bone" nerve is getting pinched. Physical therapy has been found to be as effective as surgery for treatment of this type of pinched nerve.
Your Nerve is Probably Pinched in Your Elbow from Cubital Tunnel Syndrome If:
1. You sleep with your elbows bent and wake up with the tingling or numbness in your little finger
2. You bend your elbows a lot - like sitting at a computer - causing tingling or numbness. Especially if you get the tingling and numbness with your elbows supported by armrests.
Try the "Bent Elbow Test"
Sit with your elbow bent as far as it goes for a few minutes. If this causes the little finger tingling or numbness it is probably "cubital tunnel syndrome" - pinching of the funny bone nerve in your elbow. The ulnar nerve is compressed in the cubital tunnel in your elbow. That is why it is called cubital tunnel syndrome.
Physical Therapy Home Treatment
You can try a "night splint." Many people can clear up cubital tunnel syndrome by keeping their elbow straight when they sleep. You can make a home version with a towel. Loosely wrap a towel around your elbow. Loosely tape it it place. Keeping the elbow straight rests the nerve while you sleep. A lot of people get better after a week of this simple treatment.
If you don't want to make your own splint we recommend an "IMAK Elbow Support." Search online - you should be able to get one for less than $40. Wear it for a week to see if it makes a difference.
"IMAK Elbow Splint"
Physical Therapy Nerve Glide Exercises
This is a video of ulnar nerve glide exercises that are designed to free the pinched nerve in your cubital tunnel.
Do this 5-10x and repeat it 3-5x/day for a week to see if it clears up your pinched nerve.
What If the Tingling or Numbness Doesn't Clear-Up?
If your little finger still tingles or gets numb your nerve might also be pinched in you neck or wrist. Sometimes the nerve is compressed in a few places. Call us to schedule a physical therapy appointment. We will sort it out and help you get rid of your pinched nerve.
Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.
For more information visit pptsm.com or call the office: Colchester 860-537-3014 or Hebron 860-228-4883