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Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

What is cubital tunnel syndrome?

CTS is a condition that results from pressure on or stretching of the ulnar nerve. When the ulnar nerve is compressed we know it as the ‘funny bone’. It is also called Ulnar Nerve Entrapment. The ulnar nerve is one of the main nerves in your arm that runs inside the cubital tunnel and travels from your neck down into your hand. 

What causes CTS?

The cause is constriction of the nerve usually behind the inside of the elbow. But the nerve can become compressed anywhere along the way including at the collarbone or wrist.

Often the cause is not known. But because of its location, the nerve often gets compressed at the elbow. If you keep your elbow bent for long periods as when you sleep with bent elbows, this can irritate the nerve and cause numbness. If you stretch the elbow often this also can irritate the nerve. Leaning on your elbows for long periods can irritate the nerve. A fall on the wrist can traumatize the nerve. If you hit your funny bone often this can also irritate the nerve.

A previous elbow fracture or dislocation, bone spurs and arthritis of the elbow, cysts in the elbow joint, and activities that involve bending or flexing repeatedly increase the risk of CTS.

What are the symptoms of CTS?

  • Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger that comes and goes.
  • A feeling that your ring and little finger have fallen asleep.
  • Weakening of your grip, and difficulty coordinating finger movement. This usually indicates a more severe compression.

If symptoms are severe, it is important to see your Ortho Illinois Hand and Wrist surgeon, because when the nerve is very compressed or has been compressed for a long time, it can cause muscle wasting which cannot be reversed and can interfere with your function.

How is CTS treated?

At home, observe your activities and avoid those that cause you to bend your arm for long periods. Do not lean on your elbows at your desk or dinner table. Avoid putting pressure on the inside of your elbow as when you drive with your arm resting on the open window.

Nonsurgical treatments include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and splinting to relieve the pressure. If that fails, there are surgical procedure to relieve the pressure. Your surgeon will discuss them with you.