Elbow Pain: Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Updated: Feb 11


What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?


Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve that passes through the cubital tunnel (a tunnel of ligament, muscle, and bone) on the inside of the elbow, becomes irritated, inflamed, and swollen.


Cubital tunnel syndrome results in pain that feels similar to the pain you feel when you hit the "funny bone" in your elbow onto something. The "funny bone" in the elbow is in reality the ulnar nerve, a nerve that crosses over the elbow. The ulnar nerve begins in the side of your neck and finishes at your fingers.


What causes cubital tunnel syndrome?


Cubital tunnel syndrome may occur if a person tends to bend the elbows often (while lifting, pulling, or reaching), has had an injury to the area, or leans on their elbow most of the time.


Bone spurs, arthritis, and dislocations or previous fractures of the elbow could also cause cubital tunnel syndrome.


In most of the cases, the cause is unknown.


What are the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?


Here are the most commonly seen symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome:


● Clumsiness and weak grip due to muscle weakness in the affected hand and arm

● Numbness and tingling at night

● Tingling, or stiffness of the hand, or pain in the ring and little fingers, especially when the elbow is bent

● Acute pain on the inside of the elbow

● Hand pain


The symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome may seem like many other health problems or conditions, including medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow). It is advised to always meet with an orthopedist for a correct diagnosis.


How is cubital tunnel syndrome diagnosed?


In addition to a physical exam and complete medical history, the diagnostic tests needed for identifying cubital tunnel syndrome may involve :


Electromyogram (EMG): This test checks muscle and nerve function and may be sometimes also used in testing the forearm muscles controlled by the ulnar nerve. If the muscles fail to work in the way they should, it could be a sign that there is a problem with the ulnar nerve.

Nerve conduction test: This test helps in measuring how fast signals travel down a nerve in order to find a constriction or compression of the nerve.

X-ray: This is done to have a look at the bones of the elbow and check if you have bone spurs or arthritis in your elbow.


How is cubital tunnel syndrome treated?


The treatment that is most effective for cubital tunnel syndrome is to stop the activity causing the problem. The treatment may include:


● A foam or splint elbow brace should be worn at night (to reduce irritation and limit movement)

● Anti-inflammatory medicines

● Stopping or resting any activity that is aggravating the condition, like bending the elbow

● Nerve gliding exercises

● Using an elbow pad (to protect from chronic irritation caused by hard surfaces)


If these treatments don't work, the doctor may discuss about or recommend surgery.


What Should I Do to Prevent Cubital Tunnel syndrome?


To prevent or avoid cubital tunnel syndrome:


● Keep your arms strong and flexible.

● Warm up before using your arms for sports, exercising or other repetitive movements.

● Don't rest on your elbows, specifically on a hard surface.


When should I call a Doctor?


You need to call a doctor if you have:


● Pain that affects your regular daily activities

● Numbness, weakness, or tingling, in the hand or arm

● Pain that doesn't seem to get better or worse with time


Key points about cubital tunnel syndrome


● Cubital tunnel syndrome may occur when a person regularly leans on their elbow a lot, bends the elbows, or has an injury in the area. Bone spurs, arthritis, and dislocations or previous fractures of the elbow can also lead to this. In many cases, the cause is unknown.

● Cubital tunnel syndrome refers to a problem with the ulnar nerve, which passes through the inner side of the elbow. This may result in pain which may feel a lot like the pain when you hit the "funny bone".

● Cubital tunnel syndrome can be treated by taking rest and medicines to help with inflammation and pain. Exercises may also help. In a few cases, they may also recommend surgery.

● The most commonly observed symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome are tingling, numbness, and pain in the hand or little or ring finger, particularly when the elbow is bent.


Next steps


These tips will help you get the most from a visit to your doctor at 1 Health Medical Centre:


● Bring someone along with you to assist you in asking questions and remember what your doctor advises you.

● Know what you want to happen out of the visit or the reason for your visit.

● Write down questions you want answered, before your visit.

● Know why a new treatment or medicine is being prescribed and how it is going to help you. Also know what the side effects of taking it may be.

● During the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new tests, medicines, or treatments. Also pen down any new instructions your doctor gives you.

● If you are recommended for a follow-up appointment, write down the purpose for that visit, date, and time.

● Ask if your condition could be treated in any other alternative ways.

● Know why a procedure or test is suggested and what the results could mean.

● Know how you can contact your doctor if you have any further questions.

● Know what to expect if you do not take the test or the medicine.


If you’re looking for an orthopedist in Bangalore for consultation with respect to your pain issues in relation to any of the following: your elbow, ankle, shoulder, hip, knee, hamstring, back, or neck, you can get in touch with 1Health Medical Center. Our expert Orthopedist will make the necessary observations, prescribe the right tests, and eventually use the test results to arrive at a treatment plan which will help you mitigate the problem.

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