Cubital Tunnel Release at the Elbow
Cubital tunnel syndrome – also known as ulnar neuropathy – is caused by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve, which passes close to the skin’s surface in the area of the elbow commonly known as the “funny bone.” You’re more likely to develop cubital tunnel syndrome if you: Repeatedly lean on your elbow, especially on a hard surface. Bend your elbow for sustained periods, such as while talking on a cell phone or sleeping with your hand crooked under your pillow. Sometimes, cubital tunnel syndrome results from abnormal bone growth in the elbow or from intense physical activity that increases pressure on the ulnar nerve. Baseball pitchers, for example, have an increased risk of cubital tunnel syndrome because the twisting motion required to throw a slider can damage delicate ligaments in the elbow. Early symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include tingling, especially in the ring and little fingers.
More severe symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:
- Pain and numbness in the elbow.
- Weakness affecting the ring and little fingers.
- Decreased ability to pinch the thumb and index finger.
- Decreased overall hand grip.
- Muscle wasting in the hand.
- Claw-like deformity of the hand.
If you have any of these symptoms, your doctor may be able to diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome by physical examination alone. He or she also may order a test called electromyography, a nerve conduction study, or both to confirm the diagnosis, identify the area of nerve damage, and stage the severity of the condition.