What Is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Common Symptoms of CTS
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, cubital tunnel syndrome is a compression or stretching of your ulnar nerve—commonly known as your “funny bone.” The ulnar nerve runs along a groove in your inner elbow. When your ulnar nerve is contorted or compressed it can cause numbness and tingling sensations in your ring and pinky fingers. Other symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:
- Pain in your forearm
- Loss of sensation in your hands or forearm
- Weakness in your hand
- A “pins and needles” sensation running down your forearm or in your fingers
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, make an appointment with a hand specialist to determine your diagnosis. The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are similar, so diagnosis can be difficult without the assistance of a specialized hand doctor.
Causes of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome can be caused by pressure, stretching, or faulty anatomy. Direct pressure, like resting your elbow on a table or against an armrest presses on your ulnar nerve, which cuts off sensation and causes the “falling asleep” sensation, followed by pins and needles when the pressure is released.
Stretching the ulnar nerve can occur when you leave your elbow bent for long periods of time, such as when you’re sleeping. Sometimes, the groove in which the ulnar nerve rests is not deep enough to hold it and it snaps back and forth over your elbow bone, which causes irritation and inflammation. This can also cause a thickening of the soft tissue around the ulnar nerve, which keeps it from working correctly.
The first treatment option for cubital tunnel syndrome is to avoid the actions that cause your symptoms. Wrapping your elbow with a towel at night or wearing a splint to keep your elbow straight may help relieve your symptoms. Avoid leaning on your funny bone, and bending your elbow for long periods of time. A hand doctor or therapist can help you with exercises or finding ways to avoid putting excess pressure on your ulna nerve.
If your symptoms are not improved by lifestyle changes and physical therapy, you may require surgery. A hand surgeon will relieve the pressure on the ulna nerve by releasing it, moving it to the front of your elbow, or removing part of your elbow bone. Your hand surgeon will discuss your treatment options with you, and help you come up with a comprehensive treatment and recovery plan.
After surgery, your symptoms may take time to improve. You may feel immediate relief, or you may start to notice improvement several months after the surgery. Cubital tunnel symptoms may not go completely away after surgery if you suffer from a particularly severe case, but they should improve.
For more information about treating cubital tunnel syndrome, contact the Florida Hand Center to make an appointment with an experienced hand specialist.