I noticed recently that my pinky finger, the meat of the palm just below it on the front, and half of my ringer finger, on the right hand, have a tingling sensation as if they have fallen asleep. No pain, no “pins and needles”. Just a lack of clear sensation when gripping something with those fingers, especially shampooing my hair in the morning.

The first thing I thought was that Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) that is common amongst people who use a computer like I do 8 hours a day for the last 15+ years. I looked into this however and found that CTS only affects the other portions of my hand.

carpal tunnel syndrome

So there must be something less intense with a different nerve going on here, and not the median nerve. It turns out that in my case it’s the ulnar nerve that is being pinched or something. I read the article on wikipedia on ulnar nerve entrapment and at first read the description of Guyon’s Canal Syndrome. This really freaked me out because it mentioned bicycling, and a possible situation where I lose strength in the fingers and form an ulnar claw. I ride a bicycle to work every day, then sit in front of a computer…plus if you read my last post you’ll see I just got a new motorcycle. I definitely don’t want to be put on a no-bike time out. Plus the symptoms sounded horrible.

Well, as I rode my bike home last night I paid attention to how I leaned over on the bike. I distribute my weight evenly over the handlebars and seat, and don’t lean on one handlebar more than the other. To do so would cause me to turn to the right instead of riding in a straight line. I couldn’t understand how this would cause stress, other than perhaps the angle of my arm in relation to my hand.

Also, the previous weekend when I had gone to a motorcycle riders course, my left hand was getting tired, sore, and then numb from holding a difficult clutch in when we were idling and waiting to let out the clutch to move forward in 1st gear. This made me wonder if perhaps my right hand was being stressed somehow from the new angle which I held the throttle on the motorcycle. I didn’t notice any stress on the right hand though the previous weekend, it was the left.

The only other possibility I could think of would be how I sleep at night. I sleep on my stomach with my right arm under the pillow, and my head rested on the pillow right above my right shoulder. Sometimes I switch to the left arm, but I tend to sleep on the right with my face pointed to the left. Well, last night I tried to sleep on my left shoulder/arm instead, but ended up switching back to the right in the middle of the night. I woke up at one point and noticed that the right hand was more numb and tingly than it is during the day. Bingo! It looks like this is caused by Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. I guess some call this ‘Cell Phone Elbow Syndrome’.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve is obstructed during its path along the cubital tunnel; the outer edge of the elbow. This compression of the nerve often leads to a tingling or ‘pins and needles’ sensation in the little and ring fingers. Most cases will be minor and tend to come and go with time. Common causes are sleeping with the arm folded up, so the hand is at the person’s neck and the elbow is sharply bent. These people frequently wake up with tingling in the fingers, because the nerve has been pinched or squeezed while asleep. Treatment of these types of causes are easy to remedy and can involve simply altering sleeping positions to avoid aggravating the elbow area. In more extreme cases however where tingling is persistent, surgery is an option to move the nerve away from the area

Shew! I really dodged one there.