Cubital Tunnel Surgery

Your Diagnosis

Cubital tunnel release surgery is done to help people with cubital tunnel syndrome. It is important to understand this surgery is good at preventing a person’s symptoms from getting worse.  Surgery is less helpful in returning people to normal. In some cases, a person’s symptoms of numbness and weakness may improve.  In many cases however, these symptoms of numbness and weakness will be permanent.


What happens during Surgery?

Surgery takes about 20 minutes. It is done with general anesthesia meaning the person is asleep. During surgery a 3 inch incision is made on the inside of the elbow over the ulnar nerve. The nerve is released from scar tissue. It will either be left in its original place or moved towards the front of the elbow.

Immediately after Surgery

When the person wakes up from surgery they are usually in the recovery room where they will spend 1 to 3 hours. They will be allowed to go home when they are awake enough. The person will go home in a sling. The person cannot drive or take public transportation home. They must have a ride.

A person may have questions following your surgery. Many of these frequently asked questions surgery questions can be answered here. 

What to expect after Surgery: week 0 through week 6

After cubital tunnel release surgery, the person may be asked to stay in a sling for 2 weeks.  Therapy is sometimes used depending on the person’s range-of-motion.  

  • PainRight after surgery, the elbow will hurt. Pain is expected. The person will be given pain medications to go home with. The pain medications will help with the pain but will not remove the pain. By day 5 after surgery almost all people have stopped taking the pain medication. It is important to stop taking the pain medications because pain at the repair site is protective. People who continue to take the pain medications have a much greater chance of the surgery not working.
  • TherapyTherapy for elbow range-of-motion is only sometimes needed.
  • PrecautionsThe person is usually allowed to use their hand right away but their arm is to be kept in a sling for 2 weeks. The person can come out of the sling to move the elbow throughout the day. After 2 weeks the person no longer needs the sling and they can resume their normal activities.
  • WorkIf a person returns to work they must follow the above precautions.

What to expect after Surgery: week 6 through week 12

  • Pain: Most people have minimal to no pain.
  • Therapy: The person is usually doing most of their normal activities. Heavy lifting is ok.
  • Precautions: Usually there are no precautions after 2 weeks
  • Work: Most people (even manual laborers) have returned to work.

Numbness and Weakness after Surgery

Surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome is good at stopping the numbness and/or weakness from getting worse. The surgery is less effective at reversing the numbness and/or weakness. However, in some people the numbness/tingling/weakness will get better over time. This process can take up to 1 year. 

The areas highlighted in red show where a person may feel numbness and tingling

The ulnar nerve can get irritated, or compressed