What is cubital tunnel syndrome?

The condition is caused by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve as it passes around the back of the elbow in a tunnel. In some cases, cubital tunnel syndrome can require surgery in order to alleviate pressure on the nerve. 

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome can include; tinging in the fingers (specifically the little finger and ring finger), and pain or numbness in the elbow.

As the condition develops, more severe symptoms can include; weakness in both the little finger and ring finger; a weaker handgrip; the wasting of the hand muscles; a feeling of lack of dexterity and in severe cases a 'claw-like' hand deformity.

What are the treatment options?

Cubital tunnel syndrome can often be diagnosed by taking a thorough history, and careful examination. Sometimes, if the symptoms or examination findings are not entirely in keeping with cubital tunnel syndrome, then nerve conduction studies are requested. This tests how well the nerve conducts electrical signals and is able to demonstrate the location and the amount of compression to the nerve.

For mild cubital tunnel syndrome, physical therapies can be effective, such as; wearing an elbow pad over the funny bone; avoiding unnecessary pressure on the elbow; wearing a splint to prevent bending the elbow too much during sleep.

For cases in which the measures outlined above have proven ineffective, or the nerve compression itself is more severe, there are surgical options which can be used for treatment. In general, surgery focuses on decompressing the ulnar nerve by releasing the area of compression; if the nerve is very mobile, then sometimes the nerve is moved in front of the elbow and protected underneath a layer of fat or muscle;

What causes cubital tunnel syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve passes around the elbow (often called the 'funny bone') in a tunnel, and anything that reduces the space in the tunnel, can cause pressure on the nerve.

It is understood that you are at a higher risk from cubital tunnel syndrome if you; bend your elbow for a long period, for example when sleeping or talking on the phone; or have a habit of leaning on your elbow, particularly on hard surfaces.

For a lot of people, no distinct cause is found, but in some cases, cubital tunnel syndrome is the result of abnormal band of muscle occurring at the elbow. It can also stem from physical activities which increase pressure on the ulnar nerve.

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