Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

The ulnar nerve extends from the neck to the ring and little finger and helps to control feeling and movements such as pulling the thumb toward the palm. This nerve crosses the inside edge of the elbow in a narrow passage formed by muscle, bone, ligaments, and tissue. If the area gets compressed, it can cause cubital tunnel syndrome, expressed by tingling, numbness, and a weakening of the grip. It can also create a sensation similar to hitting the “funny bone.”

To treat cubital tunnel syndrome, stopping any activity that exacerbates the discomfort is usually effective. A splint or pad can help to ease irritation by limiting movement. If the tingling symptoms persist or weakness in the hand worsens surgery may be required.

Operations for cubital tunnel syndrome vary in intensity. The simplest option is to simply create an incision that allows a release of pressure on the ulnar nerve. Another option for the procedure would be to remove a bony spur on the inner part of the elbow to help release the nerve. In more extreme cases, the ulnar nerve can be transposed from the tunnel where it usually sits to another similar tunnel on the front side of the elbow. In each case, healing requires at least two weeks of exercise and strengthening. Following surgery, the tingling symptoms should resolve after six to eight weeks. If a transposition is performed, therapy can take up to three months.

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