Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is a condition where pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve (also known as the “funny bone” nerve), can cause numbness or tingling in the ring and small fingers, pain in the forearm, and/or weakness in the hand. The ulnar nerve runs in a groove on the inner side of the elbow.


Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Causes

There are a few causes of cubital tunnel syndrome. These include:

  • Pressure: Because the ulnar nerve has little padding over it, direct pressure (like leaning the arm on an arm rest) can press on the nerve, causing the arm and hand— especially the ring and small fingers— to “fall asleep.”
  • Stretching: Keeping the elbow bent for a long time can stretch the nerve behind the elbow. This can happen during sleep.
  • Anatomy: Sometimes, the ulnar nerve does not stay in its place and snaps back and forth over a bony bump as the elbow is moved. Repeated snapping can irritate the nerve. Sometimes, the soft tissues over the nerve become thicker or there is an “extra” muscle over the nerve that can keep it from working correctly.


Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause pain, loss of sensation, tingling and/or weakness. “Pins and needles” usually are felt in the ring and small fingers. These symptoms  are often felt when the elbow is bent for a long period of time, such as while holding a phone or while sleeping. Some people feel weak or clumsy.


Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Working with a hand therapist can help you find ways to avoid repetitive movements and putting pressure on the nerve. Sometimes surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure on the nerve. This can involve releasing compression on the nerve, moving the nerve to the front of the elbow, and/or removing a part of the bone. Therapy is sometimes needed after cubital tunnel surgery, and the time it takes to recover can vary from person to person. Symptoms of cubital tunnel may improve quickly or slowly.


Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Diagram