Conditions & Treatments

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

What many people call the “funny bone” really is a nerve. This ulnar nerve runs behind a bone in the elbow through a space called the cubital tunnel.

Although banging this area of your elbow usually causes temporary symptoms, chronic pressure on or stretching of the nerve can affect the blood supply to the ulnar nerve, causing the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in the ring and small fingers
  • Pain in the forearm
  • Weakness in the hand

This is called “cubital tunnel syndrome.”

What Causes the

Syndrome

Pressure, stretching, and anatomy are potential sources of this ulnar nerve problem.

The following are a few causes of cubital tunnel syndrome.

  1. Pressure on the Ulnar Nerve

    Because the nerve runs through that “funny bone” groove and has little padding over it, direct pressure (like leaning your arm on an arm rest) can compress the nerve, causing your arm and hand — especially the ring and small fingers — to “fall asleep.”

  2. Over-Stretching the Nerve

    Keeping the elbow bent for a long time can stretch the nerve behind the elbow. This usually happens during sleep.

  3. Anatomy

    Sometimes, the ulnar nerve does not stay in its place and snaps back and forth over a bony bump as the elbow is moved. Repetitive snapping can irritate the nerve. Sometimes, the soft tissues over the nerve become thicker or there is an “extra” muscle over the nerve that can keep the nerve from working correctly.

Signs and

Symptoms

Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause pain, loss of sensation, and tingling, and some people may feel weak or clumsy. A “pins and needles” 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 phone or while sleeping. Loss of sensation and loss of strength or muscle in the hand is serious.

Diagnosing the

Elbow Condition

Our hand doctor 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 actions that cause cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms. Wrapping a pillow or towel around the elbow or wearing a splint at night to keep the elbow from bending during sleep can help. Avoiding leaning on the “funny bone” part of the elbow can help as well. Our surgeon can help you learn ways to avoid 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 the time it takes to recover varies. Numbness and tingling may improve quickly or slowly, and it may take many months for the strength in your hand to improve. Cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms may not totally go away after surgery, especially if symptoms are severe.

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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.