If bending your elbow causes numbness or tingling in your hand, or you experience hand pain, a weak grip, or an aching pain on the inside of your elbow, you could have cubital tunnel syndrome. At Nevada Orthopedic & Spine Center, our team offers diagnosis and treatment for elbow pain caused by trauma or other injuries.
What is cubital tunnel syndrome?
The inside of your elbow has a tunnel of bone, ligament, and muscle called the cubital tunnel. The ulnar nerve passes through the cubital tunnel and helps control muscles. The nerve also helps you feel sensations in your hands, fingers, and forearms. If the ulnar nerve becomes swollen, inflamed, or irritated, you have cubital tunnel syndrome. A compressed or irritated ulnar nerve can cause severe symptoms and lead to muscle weakness and atrophy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are similar, but cubital tunnel syndrome affects your pinky and ring finger, while carpal tunnel syndrome affects your index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and thumb.
There’s nothing funny about cubital tunnel syndrome
At some point in your life, you’ve probably hit that spot on your elbow commonly called the funny bone. Banging your elbow against a table, doorway, or other solid object is painful because there is very little tissue between the nerve and your elbow. It generates an “electrical” sensation that travels from the elbow down your arm.
The funny bone in your elbow is actually the ulnar nerve that runs from your neck to the tips of your fingers, and it hurts quite a bit when the nerve experiences trauma.
Cubital tunnel syndrome pain feels a lot like hitting your funny bone and can be caused by repetitive movements, such as pulling, lifting, or reaching with your arms, or from a traumatic injury to the area. Cubital tunnel syndrome may also be a result of bone spurs, arthritis, or a dislocation of the elbow.
Are you at risk of cubital tunnel syndrome?
The cause of cubital tunnel syndrome is not always known, but we do know certain factors increase your risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome, including:
- Arthritis of your elbow
- Previous elbow dislocation or fracture
- Bone spurs
- Swollen elbow joint
- Having a cyst near your elbow joint
Not everyone with these symptoms or issues will develop cubital tunnel syndrome, but it does increase your risk. Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most common upper limb peripheral nerve damage condition.
How is cubital tunnel syndrome treated?
If the team at Nevada Orthopedic diagnoses your elbow pain as cubital tunnel syndrome, we recommend several conservative treatments to relieve discomfort and allow your elbow to heal. Initial treatment may include:
- Stopping the activity that caused cubital tunnel syndrome
- Using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Avoiding bending your elbow for extended periods
- Wearing a splint or foam elbow brace when you sleep
If conservative methods don’t help relieve the pain, we may recommend steroid injections, or in severe cases, surgery.
Tips for preventing cubital tunnel syndrome
You can reduce your risk for developing the condition by keeping your arms strong and flexible, warming up before exercise or engaging in repetitive activities, and avoiding resting on your elbows.
Schedule an appointment if you have intense elbow pain
Call Nevada Orthopedic if you experience a traumatic injury to your elbow, have signs of swelling, or the pain is severe enough to affect your range of motion and use of your arm. Our knowledgeable team at Nevada Orthopedic may order blood tests, an electromyogram (EMG) to see how your nerves and muscles react, and take X-rays to check for arthritis, bone spurs, and/or a compressed ulnar nerve.
Call the practice or book an appointment online today.