Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve is entrapped. Also known as the “funny bone,” this sensitive nerve travels behind the bony bump of the elbow (medial epicondyle) through a narrow passageway of muscles, ligaments, and bones (cubital tunnel). At that point, the ulnar nerve is vulnerable to pressure from surrounding tissue, such as a bone spur or a ganglion cyst in the elbow joint. It can become irritated if it is overstretched through repetitive movements, such as pitching a baseball.
The ulnar nerve transmits sensory information from the ring and small fingers to the brain. It is also responsible for the function of many small muscles in the hand. Therefore, the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome can include pain, numbness, and electrical sensations in the ring and small fingers, as well as a loss of strength and fine motor function in the hand. Oftentimes, the discomfort worsens when the elbow is bent or leaned upon, which can add to the burden on the ulnar nerve.
How Is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
The first step toward effective treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome is an accurate diagnosis, which you can receive at Premier Bone & Joint Centers in Casper, Wyoming. After evaluating your symptoms and performing a physical examination, your physician may order an electromyography (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCS) to evaluate the function of your ulnar nerve.
In most cases, treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome begins conservatively with a combination of:
- Activity modifications to avoid painful positions and movements
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- An elbow pad worn during certain physical activities
- An elbow splint worn during sleep
In general, we view surgery as a last resort treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome. However, to address severe or persistent symptoms, we may suggest a medial epicondylectomy, which involves removing a portion of the medial epicondyle to allow the ulnar nerve to glide smoothly through the cubital tunnel as the elbow is flexed and straightened. Another option may be an ulnar nerve transposition, which involves creating a new tunnel in front of the medial epicondyle and then repositioning the ulnar nerve to pass through it.
See an Orthopedic Surgeon in Casper
If you would like to consult with an experienced elbow specialist, contact Premier Bone & Joint Centers to schedule an appointment at our satellite clinic in Casper, WY.