Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve as it passes through a narrow tunnel on the inner side of the elbow, called the cubital tunnel. The ulnar nerve is one of the major nerves of the arm and is responsible for providing sensation to the little finger and part of the ring finger, as well as controlling some of the small muscles in the hand.

Signs and symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome may include:

  1. Numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers, particularly when the elbow is bent.
  2. Weakness in the hand, particularly in activities requiring grasp or fine motor skills.
  3. Pain or discomfort along the inner side of the elbow.
  4. Loss of coordination or clumsiness in the affected hand.

Cubital tunnel syndrome can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Prolonged or repetitive bending of the elbow, which can place pressure on the ulnar nerve.
  2. Direct trauma or injury to the elbow, leading to nerve compression or irritation.
  3. Anatomical variations or abnormalities in the structures around the cubital tunnel, which can increase the risk of nerve compression.
  4. Prolonged pressure on the elbow due to leaning on hard surfaces, as seen in certain occupational or habitual activities.

Early recognition and treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome are important to prevent long-term nerve damage and functional impairment. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and management if symptoms suggestive of cubital tunnel syndrome are present.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

The treatment options for cubital tunnel syndrome vary based on the severity of symptoms, functional limitations, and the underlying causes. Both nonoperative and operative management strategies are available for managing cubital tunnel syndrome.

Non-operative Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Management Options

  1. Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, such as prolonged elbow bending or repetitive motions, can help reduce nerve irritation and improve symptoms.
  2. Orthotic Devices: Wearing a brace or splint that keeps the elbow in a straight or extended position during sleep or activities can help relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve and reduce symptoms.
  3. Physical Therapy: Specific exercises and stretches may be prescribed to improve elbow and nerve mobility, strengthen supporting muscles, and alleviate symptoms.
  4. NSAIDs and Corticosteroid Injections: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain around the cubital tunnel.

Operative Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Management Options

If non-operative measures do not provide sufficient relief or if the nerve compression is severe, surgical intervention may be considered. The operative options for cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  1. Ulnar Nerve Decompression: Surgical decompression of the ulnar nerve at the cubital tunnel aims to create more space for the nerve and relieve pressure. This may involve releasing tight or constricting structures, such as ligaments and bony prominences, and may also include transposition of the nerve to a different location to prevent further irritation.
  2. Ulnar Nerve Transposition: In cases of recurrent or severe nerve compression, the ulnar nerve can be moved, or transposed, from its original position at the cubital tunnel to a new location in the arm or forearm where it is less likely to be compressed during elbow bending.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Following surgery, a period of rehabilitation and physical therapy is usually prescribed to regain strength, mobility, and function in the affected arm and hand. The specific timeframe and rehabilitation protocol will depend on the surgical technique employed and the individual’s recovery progress.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment approach based on the individual’s symptoms, functional goals, and overall health.


The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:

*Numbness and tingling in the hand and small and ring fingers
*Night symptoms
*Hand and finger pain


There are several suggested causes for cubital tunnel syndrome. Part of the reason might reside in the very way the elbow is designed to work. One common factor might be the constant bending of the elbow itself–reaching, lifting, or pulling levers. When this occurs, the ulnar nerve is stretched several millimeters. At times the ulnar nerve will shift or snap over the bony point on the inside of the elbow called the medial epicondyle. Over time, this can progressively irritate the nerve, resulting in the pain, tingling, and numbness along with weakness of some of the muscles of the hand and forearm. Nerve damage can result. The ulnar nerve can also be damaged from trauma inflicted directly to the cubital tunnel. 

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