Conditions & Treatments

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

You have probably heard of the “funny bone,” right? The truth is, that sensation you feel when the funny bone is stimulated is actually an ulnar nerve that lives behind your elbow in an area called the cubital tunnel.

Although accidentally triggering this elbow tingling usually causes only temporary symptoms, chronic pressure or stretching of that ulnar nerve can potentially affect its blood supply, and if that happens, it may cause the following symptoms:

  • On and off pain in the forearm
  • Numbness and/or tingling in the ring and pinky fingers
  • Chronic weakness in the hand that feels as if it came out of nowhere

When diagnosed, this condition is called “cubital tunnel syndrome.”

What Causes cubital tunnel 

Syndrome

Direct pressure, maintaining long-lasting stretching of the nerve, and/or your unique anatomy are potential sources of this ulnar nerve condition.

Let’s dive into a little more detail below.

  1. PRESSURE ON THE ULNAR NERVE

    Because the nerve runs through that “funny bone” groove which has very little protection on it, direct pressure on it will compress the nerve, causing your arm and hand to get that prickly “falling asleep” sensation.

  2. OVER-STRETCHING THE NERVE

    There are times, such as in a deep sleep, that you may maintain a bent elbow for so long that it stretches the nerve behind the elbow. It’s this type of action that we want to avoid.

  3. ANATOMY

    Everybody is built differently, and sometimes our bodies are built in a way that promotes the ulnar nerve to snap back and forth. When that snapping becomes repeated, the nerve will become irritated in various ways.

Signs and

Symptoms

Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause mild to severe pain, a loss of sensation, tingling, and some people may even feel weak or clumsy. A “pins and needles” sensation, or what we mentioned earlier as the “falling asleep” sensation, is usually felt in the ring and small fingers. The symptoms often occur when the elbow is kept bent for a long time, such as while holding a cell phone to your ear or while sleeping. Loss of sensation and loss of strength or muscle in the hand is serious.

Diagnosing the

Elbow Condition

Our hand doctor, Dr. Avery Arora, will be able to tell a lot by asking you about your symptoms and examining your elbow. He might also recommend tests for other medical problems like diabetes or thyroid disease.

A test called electromyography (EMG) and/or nerve conduction study (NCS) might be needed to see how much the nerve and muscle are being affected. This test also checks for other problems like a pinched nerve in the neck, which can cause similar symptoms.

Surgery &

Other Treatments

There are several options for cubital tunnel syndrome treatment, including self-care, splinting, and surgery.

The first step is to avoid doing things that incite cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms. Wrapping a soft object like a towel around the elbow or wearing a splint while sleeping can help prevent durations of long-term bending. Avoiding leaning on your “funny bone” section of the elbow can help as well. Our hand surgeon, Dr. Avery Aora, will recommend splints and remedies to help you learn ways to avoid placing pressure on the nerve.

When symptoms are severe or not getting better, surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure on the ulnar nerve. This can involve releasing the nerve, moving the nerve to the front of the elbow, and/or removing a part of the bone. Dr. Arora will talk with you about your options and guide your care.

Elbow therapy sometimes is needed after surgery, and it’s important to note that recovery time of your surgery may vary. The tingling and/or numbness you feel may improve slowly or quickly, and it may require months for the strength in your hand to return. Cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms may not totally go away after surgery, especially if symptoms are severe.

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome, contact us to schedule an appointment with Michigan Hand Surgeon Avery Arora, MD in West Bloomfield, Howell, Macomb, or Warren.

Get on the List

Subscribe

Patient

Stories

Read All

Dr. Aroras office from my first call to schedule my appointment was friendly. Walking in the first day, I felt like I was in a nice atmosphere. Dr. Arora was EXCELLENT in taking great care of my hand injury. He was gentle and very understanding to the concerns I had about my hand. His expertise was admirable and I would recommend anyone with an injury to their hand to his office to be under his care. Because of him, I have healed faster than expected and will make an 100% recovery! Thank you Dr.

Jackie S.

I first thought I was going to have to have painful injections or surgery, but Dr. Arora suggested physical therapy may do the trick. I was doubtful, but I agreed to do it. Now, my pain is gone, and with the help of an ergonomic keyboard at work to keep my hands in the correct position, I am virtually pain free. The therapy strengthened my wrists and shoulders, and built more flexibility into my wrists.

Jerry T.

My experience with this doctor was positive from the outset. Dr. Arora was kind and spent a great deal of time with me. Staff was friendly. The office was nice and bright.

Ariel G.

Very friendly and helpful Great staff!!! Doctor Arora was very professional and did great work. I was very happy with everything!

L B.