Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Nerve Compression Conditions Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is cubital tunnel syndrome?

The ulnar nerve supplies most of the small muscles of the hand that make small, fine movements of the fingers possible. It supplies the sensation of the skin of the little finger and half of the ring finger. Therefore, when this nerve is compressed (at any place), the hand gets weaker (the hand muscles become wasted), and pins and needles are experienced in the little and ring fingers.

How is cubital tunnel syndrome treated?

The principle of treatment is to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve. In conservative non-surgical treatment, Dr van der Spuy may suggest activity modification and splinting.  Splinting will prevent elbow flexion, which decreases the pressure on the nerve and helps to relieve symptoms.  There are two surgical procedures that upper limb surgeons may combine in advanced cases. Firstly, the nerve is decompressed and freed around the elbow.  The surgeon may or may not decide to transpose the ulnar nerve to the front of the elbow, which "shortens" its route and it is then embedded in muscle or the fascia in the front of the elbow.  This procedure reduces pressure on the nerve and may provide immediate relief.  Symptoms, however, may take 3-12 months to resolve, particularly if the cubital tunnel syndrome is chronic.

In Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, the ulnar nerve is compressed at the elbow. The ulnar nerve runs in a tunnel and passes structures that can create potential fibrous bands or pressure points on the nerve as it continues along its normal course. It is important to understand that in flexion (bending) of the elbow, the ulnar nerve is at maximum stretch. The pressure in this nerve is raised by 50% when the elbow is flexed beyond ninety degrees. The nerve runs just behind the medial epicondyle (the funny bone) and may create a snapping or electric-shock-type feeling when it subluxes to the front of the medial epicondyle.

Sometimes, the ulnar nerve is compressed at the level of the wrist in Guyon’s canal or just beyond it. The expression of symptoms has some variations as Cubital tunnel syndrome.

What are the related symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include pain, loss of sensation, tingling and/or weakness. Other symptoms include pins and needles sensation normally on the ring and small fingers. These symptoms are usually felt when your elbow remains bent for an extended period of time, such as sleeping or while holding your phone.  In some cases, some people’s hands may feel weak or clumsy.


1Is cubital tunnel syndrome considered a disability?
Cubital tunnel syndrome can be a disabling condition, in which case, you may qualify for disability benefits if you cannot function or work as a result of it.
2Is cubital tunnel syndrome a painful disorder?
Yes, cubital tunnel syndrome is classified as a painful condition similar to the pain you experience when you’ve hit a funny bone.
3Does pain from cubital tunnel syndrome last long?
Pain from untreated, cubital tunnel syndrome can extend over many years and worsen over time.

Please read the above text for more in-depth information to help answer these questions. It's important to consult with our qualified healthcare professionals to ensure the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan for your specific situation.