Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is irritation of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. This nerve is the “funny-bone” nerve.

What causes Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome can be cause by an injury to the elbow. It can also be caused from pressing on the nerve from the outside, such as by an arm rest of a chair or in a car. It can also be caused by a bone spur from the elbow joint pressing on the nerve from deep inside the elbow.

What are the symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

In the beginning, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome may cause elbow pain on the inside of the elbow. As it gets worse the person usually starts feeling numbness and tingling to the pinky and ring fingers.  If not treated the person will usually experience weakness to the hand. Eventually the person will lose so much strength they cannot even use a key to open a door lock. Common symptoms include: pain on the inside of the elbow, numbness to the pinky and ring fingers, and weakness to the hand.

How can you tell if you have Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

A physical exam by your doctor is needed. An X-ray is needed. An EMG/NCS or “nerve study” is often needed. An MRI is sometimes useful.

How is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome treated?

In the beginning, the treatment is to avoid pressure over the nerve and avoid keeping the elbow bent for long periods of time. This sometimes means bracing the elbow so it does not bend while the person is sleeping.

If bracing and therapy do not work and symptoms continue, surgery for a cubital tunnel release is sometimes needed. This means moving the nerve to a place where it is not getting damaged
or irritated. Failure to address the cubital tunnel ulnar nerve compression can lead to permanent numbness, weakness and deformity (see picture).


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

The ulnar nerve can get irritated, or compressed