Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

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Cubital tunnel syndrome is a repetitive strain injury that occurs in the elbow and is most often caused by pressure on the ulnar nerve that runs through the medial side of the elbow joint. The syndrome is most often characterized by numbness, pain, and tingling in the ring and little fingers. Although potentially debilitating, the condition is responsive to early intervention and treatment.

Like other nerve entrapment conditions (e.g., guyon's syndrome), cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by nerve compression and ensuing nerve deterioration. The ulnar nerve travels through the cubital tunnel of the elbow, and most people know the region by its more colloquial name, "the funny bone." When you hit your funny bone, you are hitting the intersection of the ulnar nerve at the cubital tunnel. This causes the familiar tingling sensation in the ring and pinkie fingers, just as tingling in these fingers is a common symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome.

 

In this condition, the ulnar nerve becomes compressed behind the elbow by the overlying tight flexor muscles or inflammation of the surrounding tissues due to repetitive motion or direct impact. The ulnar nerve is responsible for mediating muscle movement in the forearm and hand (ring and little fingers), and consequently, damage to the nerve undermines functioning throughout the arm, wrist, and hand. Pain, tingling, and loss of grip strength and coordination are common symptoms of the condition.

Optimally, treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome should address the musculature tightness that is so often prevalent in this condition. Rest is often helpful for providing temporary relief; however, it is unlikely to provide long-term help. Increasingly, medical experts are recommending exercises that strengthen the weak muscles and lengthen the short restrictive muscles surrounding the elbow joint. Flextend exercises restore balance and support and provide a safe, effective way to treat cubital tunnel syndrome.