Cubital tunnel syndrome is a set of symptoms caused by abnormal pressure on the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve passes through an area on the inside of the elbow, also called the cubital tunnel. Problems with this nerve can cause numbness and weakness in the hand, particularly the pinky and ring fingers.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by abnormal pressure of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. It may be the result of:
In some cases, the cause may be unknown.
Factors that may increase your chance of developing cubital tunnel syndrome include:
Symptoms may be constant or only appear when the elbow is bent. Symptoms can vary but may include:
Long-term problems with this nerve can lead to muscle wasting in the hand.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A diagnosis can usually be made based on your symptoms.
Your doctor may do further tests to assess any potential damage:
In most cases, cubital tunnel syndrome will go away on its own when excess pressure on the elbow is removed. Activities may need to be limited if they contribute to the syndrome. Your doctor may also recommend:
If an illness or injury is the cause of symptoms, then a specific treatment will be advised for those.
Surgery may be required in more severe cases or if other treatment methods fail. The goal of surgery is to relieve compression and restore the nerve function and muscle strength. Surgical options include:
To help reduce your chance of cubital tunnel syndrome:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Neal SL, Fields KB. Peripheral nerve entrapment and injury in the upper extremity. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(2):147-155.
Trehan SK, Parziale JR. Cubital tunnel syndrome: Diagnosis and management. Med Health R I. 2012;95(11):349-352.
Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00069. Updated September 2015. Accessed September 7, 2017.
Ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115940/Ulnar-nerve-entrapment-of-elbow. Updated June 1, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.