Ulna: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Ulna Definition and Meaning

The ulna is one of the two major bones in the forearm (the other is the radius). The ulna provides stability to the arm and facilitates a wide range of movements in the arms, wrists, and hands.

Anatomy of the Ulna

The ulna is situated parallel to the radius. It’s the longer of the two bones and extends from the elbow to the wrist. The ulna is primarily responsible for forming the elbow joint with the humerus and the wrist joint with the radius and bones of the wrist. 

The Function of the Ulna

The ulna acts as a stabilizing structure for the forearm, enabling various movements, including the bending and straightening of the arm. The ulna also plays a vital role in rotational movements of the forearm, turning the palm up and down. 

Various conditions can affect the ulna, including:

  • Osteoarthritis: This condition, which causes joint pain and stiffness, often leads to pain and reduced mobility at the wrist or elbow

  • Ulnar wrist pain: Pain on the ulnar side of the wrist (near the pinky side of the hand), often due to injury or inflammation, can cause discomfort with movement, reduced grip strength, and sometimes swelling or instability in the wrist.

  • Ulnar nerve entrapment: Compression of the ulnar nerve, usually at the elbow, can lead to numbness, tingling, and pain in the forearm and fingers. This can also occur with ulnar tunnel syndrome where the compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve occurs near the wrist.  

Ulnar Pain: A Hinge Health Perspective

The ulna is very resilient and designed to recover from the kinds of arm issues that naturally can happen in the course of everyday activities or during exercise.

If you’re reluctant to move because you think you’ll cause more damage or injury to your forearm, know this: Movement is often the fastest way to healing. As our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. Movement helps rehab the ulna and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support it by increasing blood flow and gradually improving the arm’s strength and flexibility.

Physical therapy is beneficial for many conditions and injuries involving the ulna. Treatment options often include customized exercise programs to improve strength and enhance mobility in the arm, wrists, and hands. Nerve gliding exercises are often a key component, especially for conditions like ulnar tunnel syndrome, to help ease nerve pain in the forearm. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Doherty, T.J.  January 12, 2023. Ulnar neuropathy at the elbow and wrist. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/ulnar-neuropathy-at-the-elbow-and-wrist 

  2. Baig, M. A., & Byerly, D. W. (2021). Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Forearm Ulna. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547749/ 

Related Terms