To my regular readers I doubt that this will have any relevance to you, so you can move along, nothing to see here folks. However if you have stumbled across this post when searching for ‘ulnar nerve damage’ or ‘ulnar nerve injury’ then please read on.
Back in August I found myself sat at my computer keyboard in the middle of the night desperately Googling ‘ulnar nerve damage’. I had broken both bones in my lower right arm clean through and suffered considerable damage to the three major nerves in the arm. As a result most of my right hand was numb (most noticeably the back of my hand and the back of my thumb), I had lost my grip and I could not bend my wrist backwards. My little finger and ring finger were clawed and I could not straighten them (see right). The doc told me that I had damaged my ulnar nerve and this had resulted in a condition known as ‘ulnar claw’. I was also suffering from ‘wrist drop’, otherwise known amusingly as Saturday Night Palsy.
Googling the symptoms was a terrifying experience. There was talk of further surgery, permanent loss of feeling and two scary sounding tests called a nerve conduction study (ECS) and an electromyography (EMG). My anxiety wasn’t helped by expressions such as ‘irreversible damage’ and ‘permanent disfiguration’ that were being banded about during my visits to the fracture clinic.
But then as time passed things started to look up. I had an ECS and an EMG test and the results showed that all three major nerves were badly damaged but they were showing signs of attempted re-growth. Sure enough, feeling started to return in my thumb and the two clawed fingers began to straighten out, albeit painfully slowly, with the help of physiotherapy. Eventually the sensation returned in the back of my hand and my grip improved. I invested in some squishy balls and putty and maintained a strict balance between exercising the hand so that it didn’t seize up completely and resting it in a wrist guard in order to give it a break and allow time for the nerves to recover. It was a difficult balancing act, but it seemed to be effective. Five months later, my fingers are almost completely straight again and I can bend my wrist back further each day. Although my hand has improved much more successfully than I had expected, it is still not 100% ‘in working order’. For example, I can feel contact with the skin on the back of my hand but it feels as though there is a thin barrier over the skin, much like cling film, that is numbing the sensation. But the sensitivity and movement improves a little more each day and the doctors are hopeful. It is still early days.
Researching into an injury on the Internet can be a pretty daunting and scary experience, so I just wanted to fire a little ray of hope out there into the blogosphere. I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t promise that another person’s injury will recover as quickly or as successfully as mine, but please don’t be scared or disheartened by a pessimistic diagnosis. The expression ‘time is a great healer’ is very cheesy but it is also very true. I have been told on numerous occasions that nerves take a long time to recover from an injury and I’ve discovered that this is certainly the case. It’s very frustrating if you’re the kind of person who expects immediate results, but hang in there. Don’t be afraid, take the tests, persevere with the physiotherapy exercises and remain hopeful.