What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome & How is it Treated?

We're happy to share insights from our doctors.

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that stems from compression of a nerve that runs through the elbow. More specifically, the ulnar nerve goes through the cubital tunnel within the elbow. If there is any compression on this nerve, it can produce painful or tingling sensations as well as reduce motor functions that involve the elbow.

In order to gain a thorough understanding of cubital tunnel syndrome, it will be useful to review common causes and symptoms as well as the process for diagnosis and treatment.

How Does Cubital Tunnel Develop & What Symptoms Does it Produce?

As discussed previously, cubital tunnel generally develops when there is compression or pressure on the ulnar nerve. As this nerve runs along the inside of the elbow, it is relatively exposed. Any activities or duties that place pressure on the elbow can end up causing cubital tunnel. But given that the elbow features little protection for the ulnar nerve — not to mention the common use of the elbow in regular activities — it is often difficult to identify a sole cause for cubital tunnel.

Once cubital tunnel develops in a person’s elbow, several common symptoms generally emerge. A person suffering from cubital tunnel can expect to experience any or all of the symptoms outlined below:

  • Feeling numb or tingling in the little and ring fingers;
  • Shooting pain when bending the elbow;
  • Reduced grip strength in the hand; and
  • Diminished range of motion in the elbow.

What is the Process for Diagnosing & Treating Cubital Tunnel?

Any person who experiences the common symptoms of cubital tunnel should seek professional help from a licensed doctor. Attempts to self-diagnose or self-treat cubital tunnel are usually unsuccessful, given the unique nature of this condition.

When a properly credentialed doctor checks a patient for cubital tunnel, there are typically two components to the examination. First, the doctor will execute several range of motion and strength tests. If needed, the doctor may also conduct electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction tests to determine the extent of injury.

As there are many potential causes for a diagnosis of cubital tunnel, the treatment options are similarly varied as well. Only a qualified medical professional can provide the best treatment option for a particular patient. Though in many cases, cubital tunnel treatment options include:

  • Posture — In the most minor cases, a doctor may instruct the patient to change their posture and avoid placing additional pressure on their elbow;
  • Immobilization — In less severe cases, a doctor may direct the patient to wear a splint, sleeve, or similar protective padding to minimize compression on the ulnar nerve; or
  • Surgery — If it is not possible to treat cubital tunnel by adjusting posture or immobilizing the joint, then a doctor may need to perform surgery to correct the issue.

Do You Need Help Treating Cubital Tunnel?

If you are displaying any of the common symptoms of cubital tunnel, it can be especially productive to consult with a proficient elbow surgeon. At Midwest Hand Surgery, our physicians specialize in treating elbows, wrists, and fingers, including cubital tunnel syndrome.

Leveraging on-site surgical suites and doctors trained at the fellowship level, we can provide personalized treatment for various types of injuries. Furthermore, Midwest Hand Surgery can provide immediate treatment for acute injuries and occupational therapy, as needed. If you need treatment for cubital tunnel or a similar injury, contact us today for medical assistance.

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