If you are feeling numbness or tingling in your hand and/or elbow stiffness, you may have suffered atear in the ulnar collateral ligament in your elbow.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament Tears
Ligaments are bands of tissue connecting bones to each other at joints. A tear in the ulnar collateral ligament is an injury to this ligament in the elbow. The ulnar collateral ligament attaches the humerus to the ulna, supporting and stabilizing your arm. Injury to the ligament can be caused due to stretching or getting partially or completely torn.
The UCL tear is usually accompanied by a “pop” sound. You wouldn’t be able to continue activity once the UCL tears. Other signs of a UCL tear include:
- swelling or bruising at the inner elbow and upper forearm
- elbow stiffness
- inability to straighten the elbow
- a weakened grip in the hand
- inability to throw a ball at full speed
- numbness or tingling in the hand
If your job or sport involves repeated throwing motions, it may stretch and cause the fibers in the ligament to fray. With time, small microtears may develop and cause the ligament to tear.
Other common causes of UCL tears include –
- Overuse of the ligament from a work or sports activity — like throwing a ball
- A sudden movement that twists or tears a ligament, like falling onto an outstretched hand or if another person lands on your elbow.
UCL Tear Treatments
Treatment for UCL tears depends on the severity of the injury. Treatment options for minor tears include –
- rest and ice
- anti-inflammatory medications
- physical therapy to strengthen the elbow muscles
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections to help repair damaged ligaments
If conservative treatments don’t relieve the pain, Tommy John surgery may be performed. The procedure involves replacing the ligament with a tendon from another place in the body, like the hamstring or the forearm. Physical therapy is needed after Tommy John surgery for proper rehabilitation to improve range of motion and strengthen your elbow.