Cubital tunnel syndrome is a neurological condition which occurs due to compression or entrapment of Ulnar nerve in the elbow. It is a cause for considerable discomfort and pain for the patient. In severe cases it can result in weakness of forearm and hand.
Ulnar nerve is partly responsible for peripheral sensation and muscle control of forearm, hand and fingers.
The nerve just overlies the bony portion in the groove and it is vulnerable to pressure. Since there is no overlying cushion or padding on the nerve, severe pressure can irritate the nerve leading to cubital tunnel syndrome.
In majority of cases cubital tunnel syndrome is treated conservatively. Severe form may require surgical decompression.
Common Causes Of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Compression, friction and traction of ulnar nerve can occur in several ways.
- Constant pressure on inner side of elbow when you place your elbow and arm on the table or arm rest while sitting.
- An injury or fracture of elbow joint.
- A tumor or cyst in the elbow region compressing the ulnar nerve.
- Obesity and holding a tool while performing a repetitive task. Holding vibrating tools can also irritate the ulnar nerve in the medial epicondyle area.
- Golfers, base ball players, painters and musicians are more susceptible to this syndrome.
- Health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis increases the risk of cubital tunnel syndrome.
- Often people who sleep on folded elbow develop tingling and pain in hand and finger due to compression of ulnar nerve in the cubital fossa.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
- Cubital tunnel syndrome has three cardinal signs of pain, numbness and tingling. Since the ulnar nerve innervates the ring and little finger, patient often complains of pain and tingling numbness in these two fingers when the nerve is compressed in the medial epicondyle of elbow joint.
- The symptoms are exaggerated when the elbow lies in certain position. When placed on arm rest or on the table or if patient performs work which requires repetitive flexing and straightening of elbow.
- Pain and tenderness is felt in the elbow region.
- In the beginning, the symptoms occur intermittently. But over a period of time they become continuous.
- Weakness in forearm and hand is present in severe cases. Patient loses his grip while holding an object.
Natural Treatment For Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
If the symptoms are mild, cubital tunnel syndrome may heal on its own. While in many other cases, the condition may require to be treated. Most cases resolve with conservative treatment. Severe and long standing cases may require surgical interference to cure the condition.
Primary treatment at home consists of:
- Avoid putting pressure on elbow. Avoid placing your elbow for a long time on arm rest while sitting on a chair. While sleeping do not sleep on your bent elbow.
- Applying ice will help in alleviating pain and inflammation. Put few cubes of ice in an ice bag and place it over the elbow. Keep the bag for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Allow the nerve irritation to heal by avoiding activities that put strain and pressure on the elbow.
- To prevent repeated bending and straightening, use a splint or a brace around the elbow.
- Use elbow padding while placing your elbow on the arm rest. This will reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve and help in healing process.
- Anti inflammatory medicines and steroids are usually prescribed by doctors to reduce pain and inflammation.
When the symptoms do not improve with conservative measures, surgery may be required to reduce the pressure on ulnar nerve.