Ulnar Deviation

Last Updated: June 15, 2018

Definition - What does Ulnar Deviation mean?

Ulnar deviation is both a term describing movement and a progressive deformity of the hand. As a movement description, it is simply pivoting the hand on the wrist to the pinkie side of the hand and back to resting position, much like a side to side wave. When discussing the deformity, it refers to the hand becoming permanently damaged so that it is basically stuck in a shifted position where the displacement of the wrist on the thumb side of the hand causes the fingers to move toward the side of the little finger. The wrist itself will shift towards the thumb side while the fingers go in the opposite direction. In the workplace, normal ulnar deviation movements are vital to many tasks and a person suffering from ulnar deviation deformity will have difficulty in performing tasks that require a great deal of manual dexterity. Ulnar deviation is also referred to as ulnar drift.

WorkplaceTesting explains Ulnar Deviation

Ulnar deviation motions are frequent in many job tasks and overuse or strain of heavy loads can put workers at risk for musculoskeletal injury, especially as it is such a common motion, most people do not think about protecting their joints while performing it.

Inflammation is the most common sign of ulnar deviation problems. The knuckles of the hand can become red and disfigured. The person suffering may lose the ability to grip objects, open sealed jars, or even change channels on a remote control. This is a disease that can be extremely painful. In the early stages it can be seen as disfigured hands and joints. But it can become debilitating as far as hand use is concerned.


This malady is typically caused by rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus, where the metacarpophalangeal joints become inflamed and distorted. Wearing a soft splint at night will not repair the damage but will help keep the fingers in the right place. In severe cases there are surgical procedures that may relieve pain and improve mobility. Even with the surgery the condition is not actually cured, only mitigated, and the patient may very well still have issues with his grip. While in crisis with joints red, swollen and inflamed, any exercise can worsen the situation.

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