Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Understanding Your Condition

What is cubital tunnel syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome, also known as ulnar nerve entrapment, is a condition that involves the ulnar nerve in the arm becoming either compressed or irritated. One of the three major nerves in the arm, the ulnar nerve can be constricted at the elbow which causes cubital tunnel syndrome. It can impact the feeling of the pinky and part of the ring finger as well as some of the muscles in the hand and forearm, influencing the strength of the hand’s grip.

What is the cubital tunnel?

Cubital tunnel syndrome affects the ulnar nerve. Starting in the neck, the ulnar nerve travels through the shoulder down to the arm and into the wrist and fingers. The ulnar nerve travels through the cubital tunnel that runs under the bump of bone on the inside of the elbow. It is part of the brachial plexus nerve system.

What are the causes of cubital tunnel syndrome?

The ulnar nerve can be compressed in several ways. Stretching or bending the elbow a certain way can irritate the nerve, as well as keeping the elbow bent at a certain angle for long periods of time. Certain sleeping positions with a bent elbow can also irritate the nerve. Other ways to irritate the ulnar nerve include the nerve sliding out from behind the medial epicondyle, leaning on the elbow for long periods of time, or fluid build-up near the elbow.

There are also several risk factors relating to the development of cubital tunnel syndrome. These include prior fractures or dislocations of the elbow, bone spurs or arthritis, swelling of the elbow joint, cysts near the elbow, or repetitive use of the joint involving the bending of the elbow.

What are the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome can result in pain on the inside of the elbow as well as the following symptoms related to the hand:

  • Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and pinky.
  • The “falling asleep” feeling in the pinky and ring fingers
  • Weakened grip and coordination.
  • Muscle wasting in severe cases

How is cubital tunnel syndrome treated?

In addition to a physical examination, a physician may order x-rays and nerve conduction studies to diagnose this condition. Treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome includes non-surgical treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines and bracing or splinting. Nerve gliding exercises can also be used and can help reduce swelling around the nerve or stiffness of the elbow joint. Surgery, such as cubital tunnel release, may be necessary in severe cases.

Where can I learn more about cubital tunnel syndrome?

Learn more from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Make an appointment with a hand and upper extremity specialist at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute to learn more and discuss your options.

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