Education: Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve as
it passes behind the elbow and through a tunnel composed of bone on
three sides and a tight overlying ligament. It is possible to feel
the nerve through the skin in this location. Hitting the “funny
bone” actually means banging the ulnar nerve. This nerve supplies
feeling to the ring and small finger, and controls some of the important
small muscles in the hand. Patients with cubital tunnel syndrome may
complain of numbness and tingling in these two fingers, and pain and
ache in the elbow that may radiate up or down the arm.
Symptoms are made worse by flexing the elbow as this position squeezes
the nerve in the tunnel. Talking on the phone, clutching the strap
of a pocket book, or sleeping in a curled up position may heighten
Non operative treatment consists of avoidance of the flexed position
by changing habits of activities of daily living. A splint that keeps
the elbow in extension may be used at night. In those patients that
either do not respond to non operative treatment or have already progressed
to a stage of nerve deterioration, surgery may be indicated.
There are several different surgical techniques, the most reliable
and predictable method moves the nerve from its location in this tunnel,
to a new location under the muscles in front of the elbow. A splint
that immobilizes the elbow and wrist is worn for ten days after surgery.