Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome (aka ulnar neuritis) is compression of the ulnar nerve at the level of the elbow. The ulnar nerve is one of the two major nerves of the hand that provides sensation to the small finger and a portion of the ring finger. More importantly, the ulnar nerve controls many small muscles in the hand itself. These muscles are important in controlling fine movements of the hand and fingers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
The symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome may be vague, however commonly include numbness and tingling of the ring and small fingers, weakness of grip, a clumsy feeling in the hand as well as an aching feeling in the hand and elbow.
What causes Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the nerve behind the 'funny bone' of the elbow. It is usually a combination of pulling and actual pressure on the nerve. Cubital tunnel syndrome may also be caused by old injuries to the elbow that leave the bones bent and the nerve stretched.
How is the diagnosis made?
Cubital tunnel syndrome can usually be diagnosed based upon the history that the patient provides as well as the physical examination. A Nerve Conduction Study / EMG may be needed to establish a diagnosis in difficult cases.
What can be done?
Initial treatment includes avoiding bending the elbow past 90 degrees for prolonged amounts of time. Headsets or speakerphones are useful to avoid this at work. Keeping the inside of the elbow free and off of tabletops and arms of chairs is also very important. An elbow pad is also useful to pad an irritated nerve during the day as well as at night. Vitamin B6 has been shown to be useful in treating various nerve compression disorders and may be helpful.
If these non-surgical treatment plans are not effective or if the nerve studies demonstrate nerve or muscle damage, surgical treatment is indicated. The nerve is released from the cubital tunnel and moved in front of the 'funny bone'. The procedure is performed on an out patient basis (day surgery).