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TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

If you’ve hit your funny bone, then you know the stinging, sharp pain it can cause. But, did you know your funny bone isn’t a bone at all? It’s actually a nerve called the ulnar nerve. When this nerve becomes inflamed or injured, it can cause cubital tunnel syndrome. The team at TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine offers comprehensive care for cubital tunnel syndrome, including diagnosing the severity of nerve damage to getting you on the road to recovery with a plan that’s right for you.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve becomes injured, inflamed or pinched. The ulnar nerve runs from your neck to your fingertips and passes through a tunnel of muscle, ligament and bone called the cubital tunnel. When it becomes pinched or injured, it creates pain that feels like you’ve hit your funny bone.

Cubital tunnel syndrome causes

The most common causes of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Nerve compression from structures close to the nerve
  • Overuse or repeated bending of the elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Previous injuries, including fractures or dislocations

Cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Aching or burning pain in the inside of the elbow coming down the arm
  • Tingling or numbness usually in the ring and little finger
  • Clumsiness and loss of grip strength
  • Claw-like hand deformity
  • Difficulty pinching the thumb and little finger
  • Hand pain
  • Muscle wasting in the hand

Cubital tunnel syndrome diagnosis and treatment:

Cubital tunnel syndrome can usually be diagnoses with a taking a good history of your symptoms followed by a directed physical exam. Occasionally, your physician may order a nerve test to assess the severity of the ulnar nerve problem.

If you have been diagnosed with cubital tunnel syndrome, many times it can be treated with a conservative approach. Treatments can include:

  • Splinting at night – Your provider will fit you for a brace that helps reduce inflammation and relieve pain. You’ll be encouraged to wear the splint each night.
  • Modify activities – You may be able to reduce your pain by avoiding activities that bend your elbow.
  • Elbow pad – An elbow pad can help protect your elbow from contact with hard surfaces.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine – Pain can sometimes be managed with anti-inflammatory medicine.
  • Injections – Corticosteroid injections and other injections can help reduce inflammation and help relieve pain caused by cubital tunnel syndrome.
  • Physical therapy –A certified physical therapist can teach you exercises to reduce pain and strengthen muscles along the forearm, wrist and hand.

If a conservative approach doesn’t relieve the pain or symptoms, your doctor may recommend either surgical decompression of the nerve or transposition of the nerve. TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute offers different surgical approaches to treat cubital tunnel syndrome, including minimally invasive procedures. We’ll work with you to recommend the procedure that’s right for you.

Cubital tunnel syndrome risk factors

You may be at higher risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome if you are diagnosed with any of the following elbow conditions:

Cubital tunnel syndrome prevention

You can help prevent cubital tunnel syndrome by reducing your risk factors. It’s important that you:

  • Avoid resting on your elbows
  • Eat healthy
  • Manage chronic health conditions
  • Stay active
  • Strengthen and stretch the arms
  • Warm-up before exercising or repeatedly moving/bending elbows

Schedule an appointment

The specialists at TriHealth Orthopedics & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicineare here to help you return to your daily activities – free of pain. To learn more or make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist: Call TriHealth at 513 246 2300 or our orthopedic partner, Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, at 513 354 3700.

TriHealth Orthopedic and Spine Institute
TOSI: 513 246 2300
Beacon: 513 354 3700
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