There’s Nothing Humerus About the Funny Bone


By Steve Kravitz, PT, DPT, CST


How many times have you accidentally hit the inside of your elbow grabbing something on your way out of the door? If you’re like me, it’s one too many times. The numbing pain we experience throughout our entire arm is certainly not enjoyable, much less comical. But maybe there is one humerus thing about the funny bone.


Why it’s Painful

Despite the name, your funny bone is known as the ulnar nerve. It begins at your neck and it travels around the backside of your arm to the inner part of your elbow and into your forearm. The ulnar nerve is protected for most of its length until it passes through your cubital tunnel in your elbow. This channel is where the nerve lays in a groove between your ulna and humerus bones. This area is covered by a strong layer of tissue called fascia which helps explain why it is so vulnerable to compression. Your ulnar nerve has to travel through a narrow space with very little soft tissue to protect it. When you hit your funny bone, you’re actually hitting your ulnar nerve against your bone and compressing it. This is why we experience the tingling sensation shooting down our forearm, ring, and pinky fingers.


Common Symptoms

Common symptoms have been described as a numbing, tingling pain in the elbow that travels into the ring and pinky fingers. It’s typical for this sensation to only last a few seconds so if numbness persists, it’s possible the nerve is damaged. When your ulnar nerve is entrapped around your elbow, it is referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome. This condition causes pressure or stretching of your ulnar nerve. It can also cause pain, loss of sensation, tingling, and/or weakness. Patients typically compare the pain felt to “pins and needles” in their ring and small fingers. It’s common for patients to report symptoms more frequently when their elbow has been bent for a long period of time. Activities such as holding a phone or sleeping a certain way can trigger symptoms.


When the Pain Just Won’t Quit

If there is a nerve fixation, it can send unusual signals to the structure that it innervates whether it is a muscle, connective tissue, an organ, or even parts of your brain. These fixations can cause an abnormal change in pressure within the nerve creating nerve tension. Nerve mobilization is a type of nerve therapy I provide that specifically locates and treat fixations of nerves throughout your body. I start by applying gentle and precise pressure to your nerve in order to glide or floss it through your nerve sheath to allow maximum pain relief and optimum function. By performing a nerve manipulation on your nerve fixation, your nerve would move more smoothly through its sheath without restriction. This would also allow your neural pathway to send proper signaling to the compromised structure that it innervates.  This should improve function and decrease the nerve related symptoms you feel such as pain in the arm or leg, numbness, tingling, and/or burning.

Nerve Mobilization is just one part of a unique, personalized approach to Physical Therapy which has been developed over twenty years by Dr. Steve Kravitz of Steve Kravitz Physical Therapy.  To learn more about how Nerve Mobilization can help you,  contact us or read more on our blog.

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