What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

You’re having problems with your hand and arm and can’t figure out the reason. Perhaps you’re experiencing shooting pains down your arm into your hand, or your ring and little fingers are numb. What’s going on? It may be a compressed nerve. 

Cubital tunnel syndrome, also called ulnar nerve entrapment, is a painful condition that can cause weakness in your hand and numbness in your fingers. 

The syndrome develops when the ulnar nerve, which extends from your neck to your hand along the inside of your arm, is compressed at the elbow., where it has to pass through a small opening called the cubital tunnel. You know the nerve by its more common name: the “funny bone” nerve. 

Dr. Michael Hood, our board-certified physician at Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, conducts a thorough examination of the problem area, orders tests, and reviews your medical history to make the correct diagnosis. He treats many elbow disorders

Why do I have cubital tunnel syndrome?

This syndrome often, but not always, appears as a result of certain habits and lifestyle decisions. 

The cubital tunnel is narrow, and when the nerve is passing through the elbow, there isn’t much padding to protect it. Continuous pressure on the nerve can cause numbness in your hand and arm. 

When your elbow is bent, the ulnar nerve stretches around the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. Stretching it for long periods may aggravate the nerve, causing loss of feeling, tingling, and/or pain.

Do you have a habit of leaning on your elbow? Perhaps your job involves a lot of telephone work and you’re holding the phone to your ear for much of the day. The syndrome can even result from the way you sleep; if you’re in a modified fetal position with your arms and legs tucked in toward your chest, the nerve can remain stretched abnormally for long periods of time.

To summarize, if you bend your elbow greater than a 90-degree angle for significant amounts of time, you may experience this syndrome.

Baseball players who constantly flex their elbows, and workers who use vibrating tools and hold them in one position for periods of time also experience higher than normal instances of cubital tunnel syndrome

Sustaining a blow or having a dislocation, cysts, or arthritis at the elbow can also place you at greater risk for the condition, as do diabetes and obesity.  

Why it’s important to seek medical help 

Do you tend to skip doctor’s appointments for things you think are minor? Cubital tunnel syndrome can result in irreversible muscle loss in your hand if left untreated. If you’re having bothersome symptoms, call Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine for prompt treatment.

Treating cubital tunnel syndrome 

The first course of action is to stop putting pressure on the ulnar nerve. That means resting the elbow and avoiding positions where it’s bent beyond 90 degrees. You may need to alter an ingrained habit or take a break from baseball to give the nerve time to heal. 

Dr. Hood may recommend a brace or splint to help you keep from bending the elbow. 

Icing the elbow periodically helps to reduce pain and swelling. Dr. Hood may recommend physical therapy; our in-house physical therapists work with you to help you increase your hand and arm strength and range of motion. 

Call Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at our office in West Memphis, Arkansas, or Collierville, Tennessee, or book an appointment online today for all of your orthopaedic needs. You can also send a message to Dr. Hood and the team here on our website. 

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