Cubital tunnel syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome

Elbow Condition

Cubital tunnel syndrome​

Ulnar nerve entrapment occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm becomes compressed or irritated. Ulnar nerve compression at the elbow is called “cubital tunnel syndrome.”

At the elbow, the ulnar nerve travels through a tunnel of tissue (the cubital tunnel) that runs under a bump of bone at the inside of your elbow. The ulnar nerve gives feeling to the little finger and half of the ring finger. It also controls most of the little muscles in the hand that help with fine movements, and some of the bigger muscles in the forearm that help you make a strong grip.

In many cases of cubital tunnel syndrome, the exact cause is not known. The ulnar nerve is especially vulnerable to compression at the elbow because it must travel through a narrow space with very little soft tissue to protect it.

Risk for developing

Some factors put you more at risk for developing cubital tunnel syndrome. These include:

  • Prior fracture or dislocations of the elbow
  • Bone spurs/ arthritis of the elbow
  • Swelling of the elbow joint
  • Cysts near the elbow joint
  • Repetitive or prolonged activities that require the elbow to be bent or flexed

Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause an aching pain on the inside of the elbow. Most of the symptoms, however, occur in your hand.

  • Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger are common symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment.
  • The feeling of “falling asleep” in the ring finger and little finger, especially when your elbow is bent.
  • Weakening of the grip and difficulty with finger coordination may occur.
  • If the nerve is very compressed or has been compressed for a long time, muscle wasting in the hand can occur.
  • Unless your nerve compression has caused a lot of muscle wasting, your doctor will most likely first recommend nonsurgical treatment.

Nonsurgical Treatment
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines.
  • Bracing or splinting.
  • Nerve gliding exercises.
Surgical treatment

Your doctor may recommend surgery to take pressure off of the nerve if:

  • Nonsurgical methods have not improved your condition
  • The ulnar nerve is very compressed
  • Nerve compression has caused muscle weakness or damage
Surgical options

Surgical options include:

  • Cubital tunnel release.
  • Ulnar nerve anterior transposition.
  • Medial epicondylectomy.