Cubital tunnel syndrome, or ulnar neuritis, is inflammation of the ulnar nerve in the arm that results in numbness or weakness in the hand. The ulnar nerve is more commonly knows as the “funny bone” and gives feeling to the little finger and half of the ring finger. It also controls most of the little muscles in the hand that help with fine movements and some of the bigger muscles in the forearm that help you make a strong grip. Left untreated, long term cubital tunnel syndrome can lead to severe weakness and disability in the hand.
Causes and risk factors
- Constant pressure on ulnar nerve at the elbow or wrist
- Extensive leaning on the elbow
- A surplus of fluid in the elbow
- Direct force on the inside of the elbow
- Arthritis of the elbow
- Past fracture or dislocation of elbow joint
- Tingling and numbness in fingers
- Ring and little finger “falling asleep”
- Lack of strength in grip and finger coordination
Diagnosis and treatment
If the nerve is compressed for a long time, irreversible muscle atrophy in the hand can occur. It’s important to see your doctor if elbow nerve pain symptoms are present for more than six weeks or are severe. The majority of treatments for ulnar nerve pain relief are nonsurgical such as anti-inflammatory medicines, splinting, or bracing the arm or nerve exercises to prevent stiffness. If symptoms do not subside, there are surgical treatments such as cubital tunnel release and ulnar nerve anterior transposition that an orthopedic doctor may discuss with you.