The ulnar nerve is a nerve that travels from the wrist to the shoulder. This nerve is mainly responsible for movement in the hand; despite passing through the forearm, it is only responsible for one and a half muscles there. Its primary function is to enervate the hand. It is located near the surface of the body, particularly at the elbow. This means that general damage to the arm or elbow can cause damage to the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve is responsible for the pain, or 'funny bone', if the elbow is struck. Continual pressure on the elbow or inner forearm may cause damage. Injury can also occur from elbow fractures or dislocations. Damage to the ulnar nerve causes problems with sensation and mobility in the wrist and the hand. In a patient with ulnar nerve damage, some of the fingers often remain flexed unintentionally. This is sometimes nicknamed 'claw hand.' Wrist movement is also often observed to be weaker with damaged ulnar nerves. Damage to the ulnar can therefore result in long-term mobility and sensation problems, often originating from damage not physically close to the affected hand itself.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Ulnar nerve