What is cubital tunnel syndrome, and how does it affect you?
Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve becomes inflamed, swollen, and or irritated. Ulnar nerve is an important nerve starting in your neck which passes through the “cubital tunnel” (a ligament and bone tunnel on the inner aspect of your elbow) as it makes it way from your upper arm into your forearm and eventually into your hand.
Cubital tunnel syndrome generates pain that is similar to the sensations you get when you strike your elbow’s “funny bone.”
Causes of cubital tunnel syndrome?
Cubital tunnel syndrome can develop if a person frequently (repetitive) bends their elbows for example, when pulling, reaching, or lifting, leaning heavily on their elbow, or suffers an injury to the area. Cubital tunnel syndrome can be caused by arthritis, bone spurs, or past elbow fractures or dislocations or sometimes by the presence of abnormal muscle in the region of the tunnel.
What are the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?
Cubital tunnel syndrome manifests itself in a variety of ways.
The most prevalent symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome are as follows:
- Numbness and tingling in the hand, especially in the ring and little fingers, when the elbow is bent.
- Hand pain.
- Aching pain on the inside of the elbow
- Muscle weakness in the affected arm and hand causes clumsiness and a weak grasp.
- Numbness and tingling at night.
How can you know if you have cubital tunnel syndrome?
In addition to a comprehensive medical history and physical examination, diagnostic tests for cubital tunnel syndrome may include:
Nerve conduction tests: This test determines how quickly signals flow down a nerve to determine whether the nerve is compressed or constricted.
Electromyogram (EMG): This test examines nerve and muscle function and can be used to assess the ulnar nerve-controlled forearm muscles. If the muscles aren’t working properly, it could be a symptom of an issue with the ulnar nerve.
X-ray: This procedure is used to examine the bones of the elbow to see if you have arthritis or bone spurs.
Clinical examination is key however and its important you consult a surgeon for this.
What is the treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome?
Stopping the activity that is causing the issue is the most effective treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome.
The following non operative treatments are generally recommended as first line treatment :
- Rest and avoid any activity that aggravates the problem, such as bending the elbow.
- A nighttime splint or foam elbow brace.
- The use of an elbow pad.
- Medicines that reduce inflammation.
- Gliding exercises for the nerves.
It is essential that you see your surgeon and the therapist who can then guide you on the appropriate treatment plan tailored for you.
If these therapies don’t have the desired result, your surgeon may recommend surgery to you.
When do I need to contact Hand and Wrist Surgeon?
If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your Hand and Wrist Surgeon:
- Pain or difficulty moving that interferes with your normal everyday activities.
- Treatment either does not help or makes the pain worse.
- Arm or hand numbness, tingling, or weakness