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Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is the term for entrapment of the ulnar nerve in the elbow. Although the nerve entrapment occurs in the elbow, people who have cubital tunnel syndrome experience numbness and tingling in their ring and small fingers. This condition is caused when the elbow is held in a bent position for extended periods of time, when there is prolonged pressure on the elbow, or when there is a traumatic injury to the elbow.

Treatment for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome can be conservatively managed through occupational or physical therapy; or through surgical intervention if conservative treatment has failed. Conservative treatment includes nighttime bracing through the use of an elbow extension orthosis keeping the elbow straight with a slight bend of 30 degrees. It is recommended to wear this nighttime brace for 3 months to allow symptoms to resolve. Additional therapeutic treatment can include nerve gliding exercises prescribed by your therapist and education regarding computer ergonomic modifications and activity adaptations.

Surgical Options for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Patients who have ulnar nerve entrapment in the cubital tunnel may benefit from an ulnar nerve decompression or an ulnar nerve transposition. In an ulnar nerve decompression, the surgeon will release the fascia covering the cubital tunnel in order to decrease the compression and allow the ulnar nerve to glide more fluidly. With an ulnar nerve transposition, the ulnar nerve is moved anteriorly beneath the flexor muscle mass. By moving the nerve from behind the elbow to the front of it, it will allow the nerve to decompress and relieve the numbness and tingling symptoms. Therapy after these procedures should begin within 2 weeks from surgery and the rehabilitation may last from 1-3 months. Therapy after surgery will focus on decreasing scar tissue adhesions, regaining range of motion, and restoring functional strength.

It is important to seek care from a Certified Hand Therapist or an Occupational therapist specializing in hand therapy in order to ensure the highest quality of care for the best recovery.

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