Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a compression of the ulnar nerve as it passes behind the elbow. This is the same nerve that causes the tingling sensation of hitting your funny bone.

Hitting your funny bone causes irritation of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. When struck, this causes a shooting sensation and tingling in the small and ring fingers. The ulnar nerve transmits signals to your brain causing a tingling sensation.

Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

In cubital tunnel syndrome, the ulnar nerve is pinched at the level of the elbow. Common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Pain, tingling and numbness in the small and ring fingers
  • Weakness of the muscles in the hand

These weakened muscles, called the intrinsic muscles of the hand, help with finger movements. Patients with severe cubital tunnel syndrome may experience a tendency to drop objects or have difficulty with fine movements of the fingers. If left untreated, patients developed atrophy (muscle loss) of the first webspace and clawing of their hand

The diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome is made after a thorough history and examination. X-rays, MRI and nerve testing may be ordered. Nerve tests, called EMGs, help to determine the extent of the nerve compression and confirm the location at the elbow.

Treatment of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome usually begins with some simple steps. Many cases of cubital tunnel syndrome will resolve with a few simple treatments:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Splinting the elbow, especially at night
  • Padding the elbow for work activities
  • Avoiding the bent elbow position
  • Avoiding leaning on the elbow

If these simple treatments fail, surgery may be necessary to remove the pressure on the ulnar nerve. Because the nerve can be pinched at one of several locations behind the elbow, it is important to release pressure from all of the possible areas of compression.

The classic surgical treatment is an ulnar nerve transposition. The ulnar nerve is moved (transposed) to the front of the elbow. This decreases the tension on the nerve when the elbow is bent. Recovery time is dependent on the severity of nerve damage. Some symptoms may resolve quickly. In more severe cases of cubital tunnel syndrome, the numbness may persist despite surgical treatment. However, surgery should prevent progression of the disease.

At Central Jersey Hand Surgery, our expert Hand Surgeons are well versed in the latest techniques for the treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome. They have been successfully performing cutting-edge endoscopic cubital tunnel release since 2012. With endoscopic cubital tunnel release, only a small incision is needed and there is minimal disruption of the tissues. The recovery post-op is much faster than with formal open transposition. There is quicker return to work and activities. Dr. Teddy Atik has been lecturing nationwide and teaches other surgeons how to perform the procedure.

For an in depth look at the procedure, please refer to the video below:

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