Carpal tunnel is a common condition that impacts between 3 and 6 percent of all adults. But while most people have heard of this painful condition, fewer have heard of cubital tunnel syndrome. This condition is the second most common peripheral nerve compression disorder, behind carpal tunnel syndrome. 

While the condition is far less known, it impacts an estimated 25 in every 100,000 people. Despite the relative rarity of this condition, it’s still important to understand the signs and symptoms it can cause, especially because those at high risk for carpal tunnel may also be at risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome.

In this article, we discuss what cubital tunnel syndrome is, the symptoms of this condition, and how St. George Utah Hand Surgery can help treat this painful condition.

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Where carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness, and tingling in your hand and arm, cubital tunnel syndrome impacts the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve is located in your arm, running from your neck to the tips of your fingers. It passes closest to the surface of the skin at your elbow.

Like all nerves, when your ulnar nerve becomes pinched or otherwise constricted, pain, tingling, and numbness may occur. Because of the many joints that your ulnar nerve passes through, there are a variety of places where it may become pinched or constricted. This can occur beneath the collarbone or at the wrist. However, the most common place this occurs is in the inside part of your elbow. When the nerve is impacted in this location, cubital tunnel syndrome occurs.

Who is at Risk?

Much like carpal tunnel syndrome, some individuals may be at higher risk of developing cubital tunnel than others. In fact, the risk factors for both conditions are similar. 

Because this syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve is pinched or constricted, repetitive motions involving the elbow may increase your risk of developing this condition. Those who do work that requires repetitive wrist motions may experience a high risk. If you spend a lot of time talking on the phone or typing at a computer with your elbow flexed, you may also be at a greater risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Experiencing trauma to your ulnar nerve
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis, especially if it has caused bone spurs
  • Thyroid disease
  • Physical differences that could cause damage to the ulnar nerve, such as a variation in the shape of your cubital

It’s often impossible to identify the exact cause of this syndrome. However, these risk factors have been shown to increase an individual’s likelihood of developing this rare condition.

Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

As with most illnesses and injuries, early treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome is key to reducing the pain and progression of this condition. Knowing the signs of cubital tunnel syndrome is important in early detection, especially if you are at higher risk of developing this condition.

Some common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Tingling in your hands and fingers
  • Numbness in the hands and fingers
  • A burning or prickling pain in your forearm
  • Having difficulty pinching your thumb and pinkie finger together
  • Weakness in your fingers, and particularly in your ring and pinkie finger

How is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to schedule a visit with your doctor right away. During a visit at St. George Utah Hand Surgery, we’ll listen to your symptoms and take a look at your elbow to determine whether you could be suffering from this or other hand, wrist, or elbow conditions. 

There are a few specific tests that can be performed to determine whether you are suffering from cubital tunnel symptoms. The first is electromyography. With this test, a mild electrical current from a needle is placed into your muscle. The electrical current should cause your muscle to contract. However, if the ulnar nerve isn’t functioning properly, your muscle won’t contract as it should.

Another test that can be used is a nerve conduction velocity study. In this test, your doctor will stimulate the ulnar nerve using an electrical impulse. The speed with which the electrical impulse travels through the nerve can help your doctor to determine whether it is functioning properly. This also allows them to measure the severity of damage to your ulnar nerve.

Treating Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Once you have your cubital tunnel syndrome diagnosis, the experts at St. George Utah Hand Surgery can help you decide on the best course for treatment. A variety of treatment options are available to treat cubital tunnel syndrome, depending on the severity of your condition. Some non-surgical treatment options include elbow splints and pain relievers, as well as stretching exercises. 

Surgery is also an option. A surgical procedure can decompress the nerve to reduce pressure. In some cases, the nerve may need to be rerouted through surgery to reduce pressure.

Getting Treatment From St. George Utah Hand Surgery

At St. George Utah Hand Surgery, we specialize in the treatment of a variety of conditions impacting the hand, elbow, and wrist, including cubital tunnel syndrome. Whether you’ve already been diagnosed or have just begun experiencing pain, our experts can help you get to the root of your discomfort, then determine the best course for treatment. 

From surgery to strengthening and non-surgical treatment paths, we create customized plans for every patient. Our goal is to help you get back to enjoying what you love, pain-free, through the highest quality of care and compassionate treatment. 

Early treatment and intervention are key to reducing pain and the progression of conditions such as cubital tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re experiencing pain in your hand, wrist, elbow, or fingers, don’t wait to reach out. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.