You know when you hit your elbow, your funny bone, you are actually hitting your ulnar nerve. My ulnar nerve decided it didn’t like me anymore and I’m in the midst of my newest adventure and challenge. Recovery from Ulnar Nerve Surgery.

Ulnar Nerve Surgery | Part 1

I’ve had issues with my hand for a while. I broke my wrist and thumb when I was a teen so I always blamed my issues on that until last year. I started noticing more and more issues with my hand. I then couldn’t trust my hand and stopped lifting weights. I lost the use of my hand from time to time. Many times at the worst possible moments. I went to my doctor and eventually was referred to a neurologist. The first thing he did was nerve function testing. It showed I had some sort of issue going on with my ulnar nerve.

The first thing the doctor tried was medication, gabapentin to be specific. It did help but once my kids started school I quickly learned that medication wasn’t going to work anymore. Our laid back summer days hid some of the side effects from the meds being on our regular schedule and the meds did not mix. Add to this I hate taking medication in general and wanted more than a temporary fix my neurologist sent me to an orthopedic surgeon.

Once I finally got into the surgeon we started with conservative measures. He wanted me to try another medication and I told him, I’d rather not. So he gave me a splint to sleep in. The splint was torture for me and it actually made things worse. An MRI to rule out other issues in my arm and I was then scheduled for Ulnar Nerve Surgery.

Since the surgery was elective I was able to wait a bit to have surgery. Otherwise, I would have had it during the holidays and would have had to do my marathon while recovering from it. That could have been interesting.

My doctor actually encouraged googling and I watched a ton of videos and read up on my surgery so I thought I was prepared for surgery. Now that I’ve had surgery I don’t think you can ever be totally prepared.

The surgery is day surgery procedure and my procedure was done in a surgery center across the street from a local hospital. I know this varies depending on where you go. Once I had my IV things went fast. My Dr came in and marked my arm, while anesthesia was talking to me and preparing me for surgery. I had light sedation and a nerve block. My last pre-surgery memory was moving from the gurney to the operating table. I woke up in post-op better than I ever have after surgery. I was feeling ok but I couldn’t feel or move my arm. It honestly was the weirdest feeling in the world. Even weirder trying to do things and the nurse and my husband trying to keep it from flopping around because I had no control of it. I will say I went through post-op faster than others around me. As soon as they moved me to the post-op area where my husband was allowed I was using the bathroom and changing to go home. I even walked to my car instead of taking the usual wheelchair ride.  I was asked if I wanted to use the wheelchair or walk, I was surprised they let me walk so I did it.

Surgery complete. #ulnarnervesurgery #ulnarnerve #cubitaltunnel #surgery

A photo posted by Debbie (@myhotsouthernmess) on

On my way home we stopped and my husband got me Starbucks and we even picked up my daughters Girl Scout cookies. I was feeling pretty good. The feeling had started to come back in my hand and as it did I started moving my hand. For the rest of the day I hung out on my couch, napping on and off, with my arm resting on a pillow.

While I do have a decent pain tolerance the pain wasn’t too bad but we kept up with the Norco every 4 hours just in case. The next day I only took Motrin except at bedtime. My pain was primarily in my elbow and incision area and it is very manageable. Day 2 also brought with it crazy itching. My bandage and dressing was not to be removed until my post op appointment at the 2 week point. By the end of day 2 I did not have full use of my hand, yes, I could move my fingers but I had next to no real strength in my hand.

Not being able to fully use my hand has become the biggest issue that I have. Even simple things like on day 3, when I tried to cut a Girl Scout cookie in half but I couldn’t. My oldest had to cut the cookies up for me. I do have twinges and weird pulsing in my arm when i’ve used my hand/arm too much.  My hand is still a bit swollen and tight feeling too. Since my arm is bandaged it also prevents me from using my arm. I cannot fully straighten or bend my arm. That means I can’t do simple things like putting my hair in a ponytail or using my right hand to eat or drink. Showering is interesting too, I have to put a bag on my arm much like when I broke my wrist when I was 16. Since it is my dominant hand it makes things interesting. My first few days of surgery I had my husband home and keeping me from doing too much but honestly, I can’t do much and when I do my body lets me know. I am entirely frustrated. I just have to keep telling myself it will get easier, in time.

more updates to come…

2 Comments on Ulnar Nerve Surgery | Part 1

  1. I just found out I need to have the same surgery. They are moving my never though too. Did you have the long cut? How long was the procedure?

    • My incision was actually quite small. I even asked my doctor about it and he joked that he could make it bigger. I ended up only having a decompression instead of a transposition. If the decompression doesn’t fix things I will need to go back in and have the transposition. It will be a few more months until I know if the surgery completely worked. So far so good though 🙂

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