Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve in the elbow becomes irritated, pinched or compressed. The cubital tunnel is a narrow groove in the elbow that the ulnar nerve passes through. When pressure is increased in the tunnel, the ulnar nerve becomes compressed and blood supply to the nerve is restricted. Trauma or direct injury to the elbow, as well as repetitive motion such as leaning on the elbow or keeping the elbow flexed for long periods of time may cause this increased pressure.
Signs and Symptoms:
Cubital tunnel syndrome causes numbness or tingling in the ring and/or small fingers, weakness in the fingers and hand, and a sharp pain or dull ache on the inner side of the elbow when the elbow is touched. Diagnostic tests such as nerve conduction studies, electromyogram or x-rays may be required to confirm the diagnosis.
Conservative options for alleviating cubital tunnel symptoms include rest, avoiding activities that provoke symptoms, and anti-inflammatory medications.
If conservative options are not effective, surgery may be recommended. This surgical procedure releases the ulnar nerve from the cubital tunnel. Removal of a small amount of bone will allow the nerve to glide smoothly and reduce chances of recurrent irritation or compression. A posterior elbow splint is placed after surgery for approximately 10-14 days, and then rehabilitation is initiated with slow, progressive motion and strengthening.