Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome (also known as ulnar nerve entrapment) is a condition that occurs when the ulnar nerve, which passes through the cubital tunnel on the inside of the elbow becomes compressed, swollen or irritated. The ulnar nerve is a nerve that crosses the elbow, and starts in the side of your neck and ends in your fingers.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers (ring and little finger), especially with a bent elbow are common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome. Other symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers (ring and little finger) at night
- Hand pain
- Weak grip and clumsiness due to muscle wasting in the affected arm and hand
- Aching pain on the inside of the elbow
- Deformity in the hand
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES & RISK FACTORS?
Some causes of cubital tunnel syndrome are:
- Repetitive bending of elbows such as lifting objects, pulling or reaching for something
- Frequent leaning on the elbow
- Direct impact to the inside of the elbow
- Injury to the elbow
- Bone spurs/arthritis of the elbow
- Previous injury to the elbow
WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?
A history of the injury and a physical examination of the elbow and arm will be conducted by the Doctor. He will do some physical tests, such as checking on the muscle strength in your hands and fingers, and tapping the ulnar nerve at the elbow.
Imaging tests will be taken, such as an x-ray for other causes of ulnar nerve compression (bone spurs, arthritis). A nerve conduction test will also be taken to locate the point of nerve compression and an electromyogram (EMG) to measure your nerve and muscle function.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
Treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome consists of both nonsurgical and surgical options. The first line of treatment is always nonsurgical treatment. These methods include:
- Resting the elbow
- Medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (ibuprofen) to reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerve
- Nerve gliding exercises
- Elbow pad to be worn during the day to protect the elbow
- Bracing to be worn during the night to keep your elbow in place and to let it heal
Should nonsurgical treatments fail to alleviate your symptoms and the nerve compression has caused severe muscle weakness, surgery may be recommended.
HOW TO PREVENT?
Some habits we can adopt to reduce the risk of getting cubital tunnel syndrome are:
- Keeping active and keep your arms flexible and strong.
- Avoid resting on your elbows, especially on a hard surface.
- Always remember to do warm up exercises before exercising or using your arms for sports activities