On May 3rd I injuried the ulnar nerve in my left hand. I injured my hand by repeatedly hitting golf balls at the driving range. I felt dumbness, along with the pins and needles sensation, in my pinkie finger, half of the ring finger and the meaty pad of my left hand. The symptom came about over a period of five or ten minutes, as the injury was not something I noticed instantly.
Soon after injuring my hand the numbness, and pins and needles sensation, increased along with some swelling and a degree of pain…actually more like being extremely uncomfortable. I have rested it over the past 5 weeks and the sensations have reduced somewhat (probably by 50%), along with the swelling, but I still have a moderate amount of the same sensations, including a palsy type symptom of the hand.
I do not know exactly where the ulnar nerve was damaged but I suspect it was around the Guyon’s canal area as the meaty pad part of the hand is where the golf club grip makes strong contact with the hand. Also, this is where I had the most pain and swelling. I know from x-rays that I have no damage to any carpal bones, hamate hook, etc.
Since the injury I have lost a good bit of dexterity in my hand and have weak finger extensor muscles for all fingers, but particularly the pinkie and ring finger. Also, I have weakness and atrophy of the thumb dorsal interosseous muscle (the large muscle between the thumb and index finger over the back of the hand) as indicated by weakness of the thumb abducting against the index finger (Froment’s sign).
It is still hard to do simple things with my left hand like using a fingernail clipper, handling coins, etc. even though it’s been 5 weeks since I injured my hand. However, while my hand is definitely better than it was two or three weeks ago it seems the healing has now hit a wall on getting any better.
My questions are:
Will I be able to regain the full use of my hand?
Will the sensations ever completely go away?
Will I be able to regain the muscle strength and dexterity of my fingers?
Will the wasted thumb muscle (Froment’s sign) ever recover?
You should see a doctor and get referred to physical therapy. Whether things will get better depends on how bad the nerve was damaged, but you are recovering which is a good sign. Push for physical therapy, you will get insight to what is wrong and get exercises to make you stronger.
The doctor said I probably damaged the nerve by repetitvely compressing the nerve ("RSI" - Repetitive Strain Injury) while hitting golf balls and in all likelihood the nerve would repair itself with time. I recall him saying that a nerve usually heals at about 1" per month but that where I likely damaged the nerve (in the meaty pad area of my left palm beneath my little finger) that blood supply was not as good compared to other areas so it might take a little longer to heal.
The doctor did not think I needed surgery or physical therapy. He suggested that I rest it, ice it, and take Ibuprofen to relieve the pain and reduce the swelling, which I have been doing. He said I should use my hand as often as possible to keep the muscles working, but to not overdo it, which I have also been doing.
While it's definitely getting better (less swelling and pins and needles sensation) the biggest problem I have is the wasted thumb muscle...dorsal interosseous muscle (the large muscle between the thumb and index finger over the back of the hand) as indicated by weakness of the thumb abducting against the index finger (Froment’s sign). I have found that a hand without good use of the thumb is pretty much useless...
I have done all sorts of exercises in an attempt to make this thumb muscle stronger. However, while I know this muscle is very weak due to being wasted it seems the signal from my brain just will not communicate correctly with it. I also have the same issue with flicking my fingers (as if to flick/thump an insect). By the way, gripping strength with my fingers is very good, just like before my injury as far as I can tell. But pinching ability with the thumb is terrible.......