Cubital tunnel syndrome is a medical condition of the hand involving the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve is just like a cord that serves as a connection to the spinal cord and the muscles of the forearm and hand. Cubital tunnel syndrome exists when this nerve is affected.
The actual cause of the condition is significant, long-term pressure or pinching of the ulnar nerve. This nerve is directly next to the bone and does not have much padding over the area. Compression of this area puts pressure on the nerve. If the arm is held in a bent position for an extended period of time, it will cause pressure on the nerve. Also, bending and straightening the arm in a repetitive motion may cause this condition to occur. Even putting pressure by bending the arm and leaning it against a table can cause symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome to appear.
The symptoms are: pain, tingling of the ring and small fingers, swelling, and weakness of the hand. This condition often results in pain in the area of the elbow located closest to the chest. The sensation of this condition is much like hitting the funny bone, though it lasts much longer. In some cases, sensation and weakness in the hand can cause sufferers of cubital tunnel syndrome to drop things. More severe cases of cubital tunnel syndrome will cause bulk muscle loss in the hand resulting in a significant loss of strength.
Non-Surgical Treatment of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome can be treated without a surgical procedure. A cubital tunnel specialist can advise sufferers of this condition as to whether or not this is the right approach for treatment. Merely changing the pattern of pressure on the nerve may work to relieve symptoms for those who are not severely affected. A compression garment, such as an elbow pad, has proven to alleviate symptoms for some patients. Another treatment is to demobilize the arm by using a splint. A visit with a cubital tunnel specialist is necessary to proceed with any of the non-surgical treatments. If the symptoms persist, a cubital tunnel surgeon may be the patient’s next step.
Surgical Treatment Options
A cubital tunnel surgeon may treat the condition by moving the nerve to the front of the elbow in order to relieve the pressure. The nerve can also be placed within a fatty area located underneath the muscle. Another option is to place the nerve on top of the muscle. Some surgeons treat this condition by trimming the bump in the elbow for relief.
The recovery time varies and will be dependent on what type of surgical procedure is performed. Movement may be restricted after a surgical procedure for cubital tunnel syndrome. It can take months for the strength and the sensation to return. Physical therapy after surgery may be necessary. In more severe cases, the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome may not be completely resolved after surgery.