Minor ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury can heal itself with nonsurgical treatments. However, if you want to perform any strenuous overhead or throwing activity or if the ligament has an advanced grade tear, then your doctor may recommend surgical repair for the torn UCL. The following steps may help you to relieve the pain, reduce inflammation, and stabilize elbow movement faster.
- Rest: When UCL gets torn, it may heal better in a neutral position. Get proper rest and avoid hand movements and splints.
- Ice pack: Applying ice to the elbow daily might help soothe the pain and reduce swelling at the site of the ligament.
- Pain relievers: Your doctor may suggest some pain relievers, such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen.
- Physiotherapy: Once your inflammation and swelling are reduced, you should start physical therapy to strengthen the muscle around the elbow to compensate for the torn ligament.
Your doctor may recommend surgical reconstruction in which a tendon is taken from somewhere else from your body and grafted at the elbow. Tunnels are drilled in the ulna and humerus to secure the new tendon graft.
What is the ulnar collateral ligament?
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones together and control joint movements. A ligament serves as a tether between two joint bones. When the ligament gets injured, the tether becomes too long, and the bones move too much. This may cause intense pain and a sense of instability or looseness. You will be unable to work.
Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) or internal lateral ligament is a thick triangular band located on the inner side of your elbow. It is attached on one side of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the other side to a longer forearm bone opposite to the thumb, known as ulna.
A UCL consists of three types of bands, which include front (anterior), back (posterior), and across (transverse). The front band is the most important for the stability of the elbow.
How long does it take to heal?
Your physician and physical therapist will monitor your progress. If your UCL tear can be treated with a conservative approach, the recovery may take from several weeks to months. It depends on the range of motion you are trying to achieve in your elbow.
If your doctor has recommended reconstruction surgery, then recovery and rehabilitation can take almost 9 months to a year or sometimes longer.
In this reconstruction surgery, your elbow will be fixed in a hinged brace to gradually increase the range of motion until you can fully extend it.
If you are planning to return to sports and compete, you will need continuous rigorous physical therapy sessions to strengthen your elbow to handle the stress. Although the recovery experience is different for everyone, never hurry to return to sports. Too much stress on the graft may increase the risk of surgical failure.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injuries of the Elbow. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/ulnar-collateral-ligament-ucl-injuries-of-the-elbow
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Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
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How Do You Release a Trapped Ulnar Nerve?Ulnar nerve release is a surgical procedure performed to release the compression on the ulnar nerve and the symptoms caused by the compression of the ulnar nerve. An ulnar nerve release surgery is indicated in patients with cubital tunnel syndrome, compression of the ulnar nerve caused following trauma or excessive pressure on the elbow, ulnar nerve entrapment due to inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, failure of conservative therapy measures, and functional loss in the hands or fingers.
How Long Does an Ulnar Nerve Block Last?An ulnar nerve block is a procedure to numb the side of the hand with the little finger. An anesthetic solution is injected adjacent to the ulnar nerve in the wrist or the elbow. The anesthetic blocks the transmission of pain signals from an injured portion of the hand to the brain.
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis. Symptoms of tennis elbow include tenderness and dull pain of the outer elbow. Resting, applying cold packs, and taking anti-inflammatory medications are usually effective treatments for tennis elbow.
Tommy John Surgery (Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction)The Tommy John surgical procedure repairs injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). UCL injury symptoms include pain near the medial portion of the elbow. Recovery after Tommy John surgery takes about a year.
What Is an Ulnar Gutter Splint Used For?An ulnar gutter splint is a flexible splint that is used to support, stabilize, and immobilize injuries, dislocations and fractures of the hands, fingers, or wrists to allow the bones and tissues to heal properly. An ulnar gutter splint can be used for various injuries in the hand including soft-tissue hand injuries to the pinky and ring fingers, fractures anywhere in the pinky and ring fingers, and positioning and healing of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.