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Ulnar Nerve Pain After Tommy John Surgery: Why You Should Address It Early

Ulnar Nerve Pain After Tommy John Surgery: Why You Should Address It Early

Are you experiencing persistent discomfort or nerve pain following Tommy John surgery? You’re not alone. This surgery, which helps many athletes get back in the game, can sometimes lead to unexpected complications, like ulnar nerve pain. 

Anthony Echo, MD, has the expertise and experience to navigate these complex issues at his private practice in Houston, Texas. As a board-certified surgeon specializing in microsurgery and peripheral nerve surgery, Dr. Echo doesn’t just treat your symptoms but addresses the underlying cause so you experience a full recovery.

Keep reading to learn more about what Tommy John surgery entails, how ulnar nerve pain can develop, the signs to look out for and why to address them early, and how Dr. Echo can help you tackle this problematic post-surgery issue. 

Tommy John surgery: A review

Tommy John surgery, or ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, is the most-frequently performed procedure on athletes, especially baseball pitchers. The UCL is a critical ligament in your elbow that is particularly vulnerable to repetitive stress and strain. 

The surgery involves replacing the damaged UCL with a tendon from another part of your body or a donor. Sometimes, the surgeon moves the ulnar nerve, which runs through the arm and near the area of injury, aside for better access to the area needing repair.

Tommy John surgery aims to restore your elbow’s stability and function, allowing you to return to your sport with renewed strength. While the surgery isn’t long, recovery takes a minimum of 6-9 months, more commonly up to 12 months for a full recovery.   

Why ulnar nerve pain can develop

After Tommy John surgery, some patients (around 12%) may experience ulnar nerve pain. This nerve runs from your neck to your hand, and any injury or pressure can cause discomfort or pain. 

Following surgery to reconstruct the UCL, swelling, inflammation, or scar tissue formation around the surgical area can compress the ulnar nerve. 

Your risk of developing complications and pain is also greater if your surgeon moves the ulnar nerve outside the tunnel that usually houses it during the surgery. It’s important to understand that this type of nerve pain isn’t just an inconvenience but a signal from your body that something requires further attention. 

Signs of ulnar nerve pain and seeking help promptly

Recognizing the signs of ulnar nerve pain is vital because neglecting to seek help if it develops can lead to further problems. Symptoms may include:

These symptoms can come and go. If your symptoms persist or worsen 3-6 months post-surgery, seeking medical advice is crucial. 

This timeline is significant because it indicates whether the nerve is only irritated, which means it may resolve on its own, or potentially compressed or scarred, which can require more advanced treatment.

Solutions for ulnar nerve pain after Tommy John surgery

Dr. Echo’s approach to treating ulnar nerve pain post-Tommy John surgery is comprehensive and tailored to your unique situation. He begins with a thorough evaluation to diagnose the specific cause of your pain. 

Based on your specific situation, treatment options may range from conservative methods like physical therapy and medications to more advanced interventions such as nerve decompression or scar release, depending on the severity of the nerve involvement.

Dr. Echo’s expertise in microsurgery and peripheral nerve surgery means he’s uniquely qualified to address the complex nerve issues that can arise post-surgery, and his focus on minimally invasive techniques ensures a quicker recovery with less discomfort. 

If you’re experiencing ulnar nerve pain following Tommy John surgery, don’t ignore the signs. Contact Dr. Echo’s office in Houston, Texas, today to schedule an appointment.

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