The ulna is the long forearm bone on the little finger side that extends from the wrist to the humerus (upper arm) bone. Pain in this area can be a result of many conditions--both near the wrist and in the elbow joint. Pain can be caused by tendinitis (wrist or golfer's elbow), arthritis, tenosynovitis (inflammation in the wrist sheath), fractures and other conditions. Most ulna pain is spurred by an overuse of the forearm and wrist either on the job, playing sports or working out. Doctors sometimes need to diagnose ulna pain before any treatment is administered. However, a person can usually start by resting and applying ice. Once the swelling has gone down, there are some basic exercises that can help relieve ulna pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some ulna pain may be caused by a tear in the ulnotriquetral (UT) ligament, a relatively new medical discovery. This ligament is located where the two forearm bones connect at the wrist. The pain will typically be either constant or throbbing periodically when someone uses their wrist. This injury does not usually show up in X-rays, MRIs or even during arthroscopic surgery. Diagnosis is usually made by pressing on the ulnar fovea, which is at the tip of the ulna bone near the wrist. Pain can usually be treated with arthroscopic surgery once a positive diagnosis is made. After a six-week recovery period, most patients are pain-free and regain full use of their wrist.
Effects of Rest and Ice
Unless a fracture is suspected, most ulna pain (strained tendons or ligaments) can be treated with rest. This prevents further aggravation of the injury. It also allows the ice time to reduce swelling and pain. Ice causes vasoconstriction which controls inflammation and pain by limiting blood flow to the area. Ice is normally compressed against the injured area with an ice pack. Elevating the forearm above the heart can also alleviate swelling and consequential pain.
Types of Medications
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce ulnar inflammation and pain. These medications are Cox-2 inhibitors that limit the body's natural response to an injury--namely, the release of Cox-2 enzymes which spur the production of prostagladins (chemicals). Topical creams such as Bengay may be effective in relieving mild ulnar pain. Doctors may prescribe steroid medication for more severe pain.
Types of Exercises
Once the swelling has subsided, a person can do certain stretching and strength-building exercises to rehabilitate the upper (elbow) or lower (wrist) ulna bone. Stretching exercises can help loosen up the muscles. These exercises usually include movement of the hand in different directions. An individual should limit their range of motion to pain-free movements. Once stretching can be performed pain-free, strength-building exercises can be added (i.e. squeezing a tennis ball). Exercise stimulates blood (with its healing properties) to the affected area. People with fractures can usually perform exercises once their cast is removed.
There is no set time frame for overcoming ulna pain. People with more serious injuries like fractures or ligament tears will need a longer period of time to heal. Generally, those who are more proactive in the treatment process will heal faster.