Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (Ulnar Nerve Dysfunction) is a problem with the nerve that travels from the shoulder to the hand, called the ulnar nerve. It helps you move your arm, wrist, and hand.
Damage to one nerve group, such as the ulnar nerve, is called mononeuropathy. Mononeuropathy means there is damage to a single nerve. Both local and body-wide disorders may damage just one nerve.
Causes of mononeuropathy include:
Ulnar neuropathy is also common in those with diabetes.
Ulnar neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the ulnar nerve. This nerve travels down the arm to the wrist, hand, and ring and little fingers. It passes near the surface of the elbow. So, bumping the nerve there causes the pain and tingling of "hitting the funny bone".
When the nerve is compressed in the elbow, a problem called cubital tunnel syndrome may result.
When damage destroys the nerve covering (myelin sheath) or part of the nerve itself, nerve signaling is slowed or prevented.
Damage to the ulnar nerve can be caused by:
In some cases, no cause can be found.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Pain or numbness may awaken you from sleep. Activities such as tennis or golf may make the condition worse.
The health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms and medical history. You may be asked what you were doing before the symptoms started.
Tests that may be needed include:
The goal of treatment is to allow you to use the hand and arm as much as possible. Your provider will find and treat the cause, if possible. Sometimes, no treatment is needed and you will get better on your own.
If medicines are needed, they may include:
Your provider will likely suggest self-care measures. These may include:
Occupational therapy or counseling to suggest changes in the workplace may be needed.
Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve may help if the symptoms get worse, or if there is proof that part of the nerve is wasting away.
If the cause of the nerve dysfunction can be found and successfully treated, there is a good chance of a full recovery. In some cases, there may be partial or complete loss of movement or sensation.
Complications may include:
Call your provider if you have an arm injury and develop numbness, tingling, pain or weakness down your forearm and the ring and little fingers.
Avoid prolonged pressure on the elbow or palm. Casts, splints, and other appliances should always be examined for proper fit.
If you have experienced an elbow, wrist or hand injury or are experiencing joint or nerve pain, call 1-855-NH-SPORT to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic sports medicine hand specialists to discuss how we can help you improve your quality of life or enhance your athletic performance.