What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?


A condition that affects the ulnar nerve where it crosses the inside edge of the elbow is referred to as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. When you hit your funny bone, you are actually hitting the ulnar nerve on the inside of the elbow. There, the nerve runs through a passage called the Cubital Tunnel. When the cubital tunnel becomes irritated from injury or pressure, it can lead to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. The symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome are very similar to the pain that comes from hitting your funny bone.

  • What causes Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

There are several possible causes that may lead to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. Part of the problem may lie in the way the elbow functions. When the elbow is bent, the ulnar nerve actually stretches several millimeters.

One common cause of problems is frequent bending of the elbow. Elbow bending activities like pulling levers, reaching or lifting are very common causes of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. Constant direct pressure on the elbow over time may also lead to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. The ulnar nerve can be irritated from leaning on the elbow while you sit at a desk or from using the elbow rest during long drives, etc. A massive blow to the cubital tunnel can also damage the ulnar nerve.

  • What Are the Symptoms?

Numbness on the inside of the hand and in the little fingers is an early sign of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. The numbness is often felt when the elbows are bent for long periods, such as while talking on the phone, or while sleeping. The numbness may later develop into pain. Because the muscles become affected, the hand, including the thumb, may become clumsy. Bumping or tapping the nerve in the cubital tunnel will cause an electric shock sensation down to the little finger. This is known as Tinel’s sign.

  • How is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

Your doctor or physiotherapist will take a detailed medical history and you will be asked questions about which fingers are affected and whether or not your hand is weak. He will try to find out if you have any past injuries to your elbow and will also try to know if you perform any strenuous activities using your hand in your day to day life.

You may be asked to do special tests to get more information about the nerve. For this, you may have to undergo a physical exam. One common test is the nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test. The NCV test measures the speed of the impulses traveling along the nerve.

  • How Can Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Be Treated?

Doctors commonly have their patients with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome work with a physiotherapist. Initially, your physiotherapist will give you tips to rest your elbow and how to do your activities without putting extra strain on your elbow. Your therapist may apply heat or other treatments to ease pain.He may also ask you to perform various prescribed exercises that involve gradual stretching and strengthening of the forearm muscles.

If your symptoms are worse at night, a lightweight plastic arm splint would be recommended by your therapist to limit movement and ease irritation. If your symptoms do not easily start fading away, even with changes in your activities and the nonsurgical treatments, you may have to undergo a surgery.

Your physical therapist will help you find ways to do your tasks that don’t put too much stress on your elbow. Even after you undergo a surgery, your doctor may recommend you to meet your physiotherapist, so that he can help you perform some essential exercises as a part of rehabilitation. The exercises will be designed keeping in mind your daily or sports activities, work tasks, etc. in order to restore strength and flexibility.