Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (Ulnar Neuritis)
What is it and how is it treated?
What Is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Cubital tunnel syndrome, also known as ulnar neuritis, is a condition where the ulnar nerve becomes compressed or irritated around the elbow. Other names given to this condition are ulnar nerve entrapment or ulnar neuropathy. The ulnar nerve can be compressed near the shoulder or wrist but is most often compressed at the elbow. The condition should be treated quickly, as muscle wasting can occur if ignored.
At OrthoNeuro, our expert orthopedic physicians can effectively diagnose and treat various hand, wrist, and elbow conditions. Call OrthoNeuro today or make an appointment online if you have persistent pain in your hand, wrist, or elbow that limits your movement or independence.
What Causes Cubital Tunnel?
The exact cause of cubital tunnel syndrome is undetermined. However, there are a number of ways that excessive pressure could be applied to the ulnar nerve.
- The ulnar nerve repeatedly slides back and forth from the medial epicondyle, causing irritation
- Pressure is exerted on the elbow for long periods of time
- Swelling on the elbow joint
- Hitting your “funny bone” inside of your elbow, which usually causes an electric shock sensation and loss of feeling in your little and ring fingers
- Previous fracture or dislocations of the elbow
- Bone spurs/arthritis of the elbow
- Cysts near the elbow joint
- Repetitive movements where the elbow is bent or flexed
What Are The Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel?
The majority of symptoms of ulnar neuritis will be felt in your hands.
- Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger when you bend your elbow.
- In severe cases, you may have problems with finger coordination and weakness in your grip.
- Severe nerve compression may lead to irreversible muscle wasting.
How Is Ulnar Neuritis Diagnosed?
At OrthoNeuro, our orthopedic physicians can help diagnose a range of hand, wrist, and elbow conditions and determine whether you have ulnar neuritis.
- See which nerve is compressed and where the compression is taking place.
- See if the ulnar nerve slides out of its normal position when the elbow is bent.
- See if the nerve function is compromised.
- Determine whether certain movements or positions aggravate the symptoms.
How Is Ulnar Neuritis Treated?
Your Orthopedic surgeon at OrthoNeuro may recommend you try nonsurgical treatment options before surgery. However, surgical treatment may be the best option if nerve compression has caused muscle weakness or damage or if nonsurgical treatments have not been effective.
- Rest. Avoid activities where the elbow is bent for extended periods of time. Instead, keep the elbow straight and do not apply pressure to it.
- NSAIDs. If your symptoms just started, your physician may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as AdvilⓇ and MotrinⓇ (ibuprofen) or AleveⓇ (naproxen sodium), to help reduce swelling around the nerve.
- Braces or splints. Your physician may prescribe a padded brace or splint to wear at night to keep your elbow in a straight position.
- Physical Therapy. Nerve gliding exercises may also be recommended. These exercises help the ulnar nerve slide through the cubital tunnel at the elbow and the Guyon’s canal at the wrist, which can improve symptoms and also help prevent stiffness in the arm and wrist.
- Ulnar Nerve Anterior Transposition.This is used if the nerve has slid out from behind the bony ridge of the medial epicondyle. The procedure will correct the nerve’s location by placing it in one of three positions. It will either be placed on top of the muscle (subcutaneous transposition), within the muscle (intramuscular transposition) or under the muscle (submuscular transposition).
- Cubital Tunnel Release. This procedure is effective when the nerve does not slide out of position when the elbow is bent. The cubital tunnel is opened to release the pressure on the nerve. As the tunnel heals, new tissue will grow across, making the tunnel larger.
- Medial Epicondylectomy. This procedure removes part of the medial epicondyle. It helps to release the nerve, especially when the elbow is bent.
Contact the Hand, Wrist, and Elbow Specialists in Columbus, OH
You use your hands, wrists, and elbows all the time. Don’t let pain interfere with your quality of life or independence. Call OrthoNeuro today or make an appointment online if you have persistent pain in your hand, wrist, or elbow that limits your movement or independence.
Medically reviewed by Ryan D. Klinefelter, MD
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- We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you.
- Best of all, most patients can be seen within 24 hours of making an appointment.
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