Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

If you’re suffering from pain in your forearm or weakness in your hand, you might have cubital tunnel syndrome. This type of injury may not be as common as carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s still rather painful.

When you’re suffering from cubital tunnel syndrome, you need the right treatment from Dr. John Andrachuk. Backed by many years of experience treating injuries, such as cubital tunnel syndrome, Dr. Andrachuk is the right Orthopedic sports medicine surgeon in Atlanta for your needs.

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Stretching or pressure of the ulnar nerve or funny bone nerve is known as cubital tunnel syndrome. The ulnar never is found on the inner side of the elbow and runs through the groove known as the cubital tunnel. 

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

The most common symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome is an aching pain found on the inside of the elbow. Along with this symptom, you might also suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Tingling and numbness in the ring finger or little finger
  • Your ring finger or little finger feels like it has fallen asleep
  • Grip weakness or struggled with finger coordination
  • General hand pain

A very compressed ulnar nerve could lead to muscle wasting in the hand. This can also happen if the nerve has been compressed for a long amount of time. It’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as you notice symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome to ensure muscle wasting doesn’t happen since it cannot be reversed.

Most Common Causes of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by bending the elbow often in a repetitive motion, such as lifting, reaching, or pulling. It can also be caused by leaning on the elbow a lot or as a result of an injury to the area. 

It’s not uncommon for the cause of cubital tunnel syndrome to be unknown. It may also happen due to bone spurs, arthritis, or from a previous fracture or dislocation. 

Most Common Risk Factors for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

There are several things that can put you at risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome including:

  • Cysts near the elbow joint
  • Bone spurs near the elbow joint
  • Arthritis in the elbow
  • A prior fracture or dislocation of the elbow

Repetitive activities causing the bending of the elbow, such as golf or tennis

If you’ve experienced past injuries to the elbow, you’ll be at a higher risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome. 

How Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is Diagnosed

A physical examination and complete medical history is the beginning of diagnosing cubital tunnel syndrome. Your doctor will likely have you go through a series of tests including bending the elbow. Some of the other tests your doctor might use include:

  • X-ray – With an X-ray, your doctor will be looking for bone spurs in your elbow or arthritis. 
  • Nerve conduction test – This test will measure how fast signals will travel down the nerve. 
  • Electromyogram or EMG – Your doctor may use an EMG test to check the muscle function and nerve function. This test can also be used to test the forearm muscles controlled by the ulnar nerve. 

If you suffer from cubital tunnel syndrome, these tests might be used to rule out other possibilities or diagnose the injury properly.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Nonsurgical and surgical cubital tunnel syndrome treatments are available. Depending on the severity of the pain and how long you’ve suffered from the symptoms, your doctor might recommend any of the following non-surgical treatments:

  • Resting your arm
  • Adjusting or stopping any activities you do that aggravate the condition
  • Using a splint or foam elbow brace at night to limit movement
  • Sewing an elbow pad on hard surfaces
  • Nerve gliding exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroid injections to help with pain and swelling

These treatments will likely be used first. Surgery is only used if the nonsurgical treatments for cubital tunnel syndrome have not worked, the ulnar nerve is very compressed, or the compression is causing damage to the muscles.

Types of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Surgery

In more serious cases of cubital tunnel syndrome, surgery can be used to treat the injury. A few surgical options are available

Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery

This type of surgery will include cutting the ligament roof and dividing the cubital tunnel. The increased size of the tunnel helps to decrease the pressure on the nerve.

The ligament will health and grow new tissue across the division. More space will be created to allow the ulnar nerve to slide through easier

Commonly, cubital tunnel release surgery is used when the nerve compression is middle or moderate. 

Ulnar Nerve Anterior Transposition

Another surgical option to treat cubital tunnel syndrome is called an ulnar nerve anterior transposition. This type of procedure will include moving the nerve behind the medial epicondyle to in front of it. This will keep the nerve from getting caught and stretching when the elbow is bent.

Medial Epicondylectomy

Another surgical treatment option for cubital tunnel syndrome, a medial epicondylectomy provides a way to release the nerve. A portion of the medial epicondyle will be removed to prevent the ulnar nerve from getting caught and stretching when the elbow bends.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Surgery Recovery Time

Each surgical treatment option is different. The recovery time will depend on the type of surgery performed. 

Once you have healed enough to come out of the splint, physical therapy exercises will be necessary to regain strength. The total recovery time will depend on each individual patient and the surgery used for treatment.

Schedule an Appointment Today!

Dr. Andrachuk offers plenty of experience treating cubital tunnel syndrome. If you’re suffering from pain in your elbow or other symptoms, it’s time to seek medical help. Dr. Andrachuk provides several nonsurgical treatment options, along with the most advanced arthroscopic and minimally invasive surgical options for treating cubital tunnel syndrome. Contact us today and schedule your in-person or telemedicine appointment!