What Causes Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger & How is it Treated?
Radiating pain to pinky finger or the little finger occurs mainly due to the presence of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.1 It is a condition in which the funny bone nerve or the ulnar nerve gets stretched or pressurized, which in turn causes numbness and tingling sensation in the pinky finger. Apart from pain and sensation in the pinky finger, it also weakens the hand and cause pain in the fore arm. Radiating pain o the pinky finger usually arises due to repetitive strain on the ulnar nerve.
The ulnar nerve is deep rooted in spine and starts from the side of the neck. It runs down the arm and passes through the cubital tunnel or the space behind the elbow's inside edge, to the hand, where it runs into pinky finger and ring finger. The function of ulnar nerve is to help the muscles of the palm to pull the thumb inside. When it gets irritated or pressurized, it causes pain in the pinky finger.
What Causes Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger?
Radiating pain to pinky finger can results due to multiple reasons, like:
- Pressure build up on the ulnar nerve
- Stretching of ulnar nerve
- Abnormal anatomy like bone spurs
- Arthritis and joint deformation.
Symptoms of Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger
Radiating pain to pinky finger is itself a symptom but there can be few other accompanying symptoms along with it and they are:
- Pricking sensation
- Weakness in hand
- Loss of muscle in extreme cases.
Prognosis of Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger
The outlook of radiating pain to pinky finger is not great, as only half of the people suffering from it recover. Most cases tend to have a chronic condition which may lead to complete impairment of the nerve. Some may also suffer from recurrence of the condition.
Diagnosis of Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger
Diagnosis requires detailed analysis of medical history. Some common tests followed for the diagnosis of the condition are:
- Nerve Conduction Velocity Test to Diagnose the Cause of Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: The NCV or the electromyogram tests the muscles that work in association with ulnar nerve. The test confirms whether the muscles are functioning properly or not.
- Tinel Sign Test to Diagnose Ulnar Nerve Trapping Causing Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: This test involves tapping of the ulnar nerve in order to reproduce the tingling sensation and numbness at the cubital tunnel. In most case, around four to six taps are sufficient to recreate the symptoms.
- Scratch Collapse Test to Diagnose Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: The test involves lightly scratching the site of nerve compression, in order to assess the pain and muscle resistance to it.
- Pressure Provocative Test: This test applies a pressure on the cubital tunnel carrying the ulnar nerve and check for the sensitivity.
Treatment for Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger
The treatments for radiating pain to pinky finger can be both surgical and non-surgical.
- Non-Surgical Treatments for Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: The first line of treatment for radiating pain to pinky finger involves treating the symptoms, which normally involves the following the non-surgical treatments. The treatments include:
- Providing support to the elbow and to prevent the bending of elbow, by using a lightweight arm splint, elbow pad or wrapping of a pillow or towel around the arm.
- Administration of chiropractic sessions proves beneficial in maintaining the activities of elbow without putting excess of strain on the elbow.
- Surgical Treatments to Treat Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: In the scenario when the symptoms of radiating pain to pinky finger do not subside by non-surgical treatments, then surgery may be required. The surgeries are not complicated but rather an outpatient procedure. There are two types of surgeries available, which are:
- Ulnar Nerve Transposition: It is a surgical procedure to treat radiating pain to pinky finger in which a new cubital tunnel is created surgically by the help of flexor muscles present in the forearm. This helps prevent the strain and pressure which was previously created on the ulnar nerve.
- Medical Epicondylectomy: This surgery involves the removal of medial epicondyle, which is present on the inner edge of the elbow. This further helps in unstrained and unrestricted sliding of ulnar nerve through the cubital tunnel.
Exercises for Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger
In most cases, surgery is not required and the radiating pain to pinky finger can be treated well enough through exercising. The exercises can be commenced once the nerve irritation and inflammation subsides. Some such exercises are:
- Range of Motion Exercises for Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: These exercises help to regain the strength of the arm and muscles which get weak due to protective posture.
- Nerve Gliding Exercises to Prevent Radiating Pain to Pinky Finger: These exercises focus on enhancing the stretching ability of the nerves. The exercises involve following positions and postures that help in stretching the ulnar nerve, which gets shortened owing to the condition.
- Muscle Strengthening Exercises: These exercises help in restoration of the muscle strength that gets lost due to the condition.
Radiating pain in pinky finger due to cubital tunnel syndrome is a quite common nerve compression disorder that ails the arm after Carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition occurs as a result of excess of pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow, which causes considerable amount of pain in the hand, especially, in the pinky finger. Men tend to suffer more from the condition. Individuals involved in jobs that require repetitive elbow movements are also prone to the condition. The condition usually turns chronic and elbow support is required to prevent the condition getting worse. Apart from support, physiotherapy sessions also help in reducing the pain and numbness. Surgery may also be required when conservative treatments fail to provide the required relief.