cubital tunnel syndrome

Experiencing Numbness in Your Ring Finger? It Might Be Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Experiencing Numbness in Your Ring Finger? It Might Be Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by the compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve, commonly referred to as the “funny bone.” While this may sound amusing, the pain and disability it causes are anything but funny. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for cubital tunnel syndrome.

Understanding Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

The ulnar nerve originates in the neck and travels down to the hand, providing sensation to the ring and little fingers. It also connects to the small muscles responsible for grip strength and passes through the cubital tunnel, an opening located at the elbow. Unlike carpal tunnel syndrome, which is more widely recognized, cubital tunnel syndrome—also known as ulnar nerve entrapment or compression—occurs when the ulnar nerve becomes compressed due to excess pressure.

Recognizing the Symptoms

An initial sign of cubital tunnel syndrome is numbness in the inner part of the hand, along with the ring and little fingers. Over time, this numbness can escalate into pain. Numbness is often experienced when the elbow is kept bent for extended periods, such as during sleep or while using a phone. Some individuals may also notice weakness or clumsiness in the hand or thumb. Common symptoms include:

– Tingling in the forearms

– Numbness

– Burning sensations

– Pain

– Grip weakness

– Difficulty coordinating finger movements

– Muscle weakness and clumsiness

Causes and Risk Factors

Cubital tunnel syndrome arises from activities that excessively bend the elbow, such as prolonged elbow bending, repetitive elbow movements, and sleeping with a bent elbow. Direct pressure on the elbow or a forceful impact to the cubital tunnel can also damage the ulnar nerve. Everyday actions like reaching, lifting, leaning on the elbows, and operating machinery can contribute to nerve compression when done frequently or for extended periods. Certain individuals are at a higher risk due to existing conditions or previous injuries, including:

– Bone spurs

– Past fractures or dislocations below the elbow

– Diabetes

– Arthritis-related joint damage

When to Seek Medical Attention

Determining when to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome can be challenging, as occasional hand, wrist, or elbow discomfort is common. However, severe pain, inability to move a finger, or wrist rotation warrant immediate medical attention. Don’t delay seeking help if something feels amiss, especially in the case of cubital tunnel syndrome.

What to Expect During Your Appointment

To ascertain whether cubital tunnel syndrome or another condition is present, your doctor will inquire about your medical history and any relevant injuries. A physical examination will be conducted to identify the point of ulnar nerve compression. Diagnostic tests like nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests or X-rays might be ordered to pinpoint the compression site and its cause. An electromyogram (EMG) may also be performed to assess muscle function.

Treatment Approaches

Early-stage cubital tunnel syndrome can often be managed through activity adjustments and bracing. Minimizing elbow bending during activities and sleep is advised, and wearing an elbow splint at night can prevent elbow flexion during sleep.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can help alleviate nerve-related swelling. Nerve gliding exercises might also be recommended to maintain arm and wrist flexibility.

Surgical Intervention

When non-surgical methods prove ineffective, surgical options to relieve ulnar nerve pressure may be considered. Surgical procedures include:

– Cubital tunnel release: The ligament roof of the cubital tunnel is cut, enlarging the tunnel and reducing nerve pressure.

– Ulnar nerve anterior transposition: The nerve is repositioned to prevent it from catching on bony ridges and stretching during elbow bending.

– Medial epicondylectomy: A portion of the medial epicondyle is removed to prevent nerve entrapment.

Patients undergoing surgery tend to experience positive outcomes and full recovery. However, severe nerve compression or muscle atrophy might result in a longer recovery period, with potential limitations in nerve restoration.

Contact us for more details:

Total Orthocare

59 A, MNR Complex,
Near Steel Factory Bus Stop,
DoddaBanaswadi Main Road,
Bengaluru-560043 Phone: 080-4370 1281 Mobile: 9591618833

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