Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Ulnar Nerve Compression: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is the name given to a medical condition caused due to exorbitant pressure on ulnar nerve present in the elbow. This produces symptoms of numbness, tingling as well as pain in elbow, forearm, and hand. Ulnar nerve goes through cubital tunnel which is an area located in the inside part of elbow. Cubital tunnel syndrome is a type of neuropathy caused due to nerve compression, also known as ulnar nerve compression. The medial epicondyle of the humerus can be felt on inner region of the elbow as a bony protrusion. The olecranon process can be felt at the posterior region of the elbow. Ulnar nerve passes in the 'tunnel' present between these two bones and continues to pass into the hand and the little and ring fingers. It also supplies many muscles in the forearm. Ulnar nerve passes closely to medial epicondyle (funny bone) and due to this any impact to this region produces tingling or shooting sensations. Treatment comprises of resting, taking pain killers, splinting and finally surgery as a last resort.
How to Identify Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Ulnar Nerve Compression?
Signs and Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Ulnar Nerve Compression
- Numbness or tingling in the outer edge of the hand, little finger and ring finger.
- Pain is also present.
- Weakness in gripping things. Patient may drop things.
- Difficulty in performing tasks which require fine motor control.
- There may be partial flexion of little and ring finger.
- Symptoms increase with some activities which increase nerve pressure like elbow leaning and repetitive flexing and extending of the elbow.
- There may be muscle wasting in the forearm and hand if this condition continues for some time.
- Symptoms worsen at night.
- Positive Tinsel's sign.
Causes of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Ulnar Nerve Compression
Ulnar nerve may also be compressed due to the following reasons:
- Medial epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow).
- Bony spurs.
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis cause narrowing of the tunnel which compresses the nerve.
- Compression can be caused due to a condition known as cubitus valgus where the angle at elbow increases.
- Tight fascia bands over the tunnel.
- Repeated leaning on elbows.
- Repetitive elbow flexion/ extension.
- Playing certain instruments such as the guitar.
- Subluxation of ulnar nerve.
- Humerus or ulna fracture.
How Is This Condition Treated?
Treatment for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Ulnar Nerve Compression
- Rest should be taken from aggravating activities like leaning on elbows, playing guitar and other manual work.
- Cold therapy can applied to reduce pain.
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen helps in easing the pain.
- A splint can be applied to allow the elbow to be stable and to allow better healing of the nerve.
- If symptoms persist, then surgery is required to alleviate pressure on ulnar nerve.