While not as well known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome can cause severe pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hands and arms.

The common cause between both of these syndromes involves some sort of pressure causing compression on a nerve in the arm or elbow. In the majority of cases, patients can manage cubital tunnel syndrome with simple conservative treatments, while more severe cases may still require surgery to return to normalcy.

What Causes Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome, also known as ulnar neuropathy to Hand and Wrist Specialists, arises from an increased pressure on the ulnar nerve, which passes through the small hollow of the elbow commonly known as the “funny bone.” Patient have a higher risk of developing Cubital Tunnel Syndrome if they:

  • Lean on their elbow often, especially on hard surfaces
  • Leave the elbow bent for prolonged periods of time, such as while talking on the phone or sleeping with the arm left bent under the pillow

In some cases, cubital tunnel syndrome can result from an abnormal growth of bone in the elbow or from intense physical activity such as sports that rely on throwing. Baseball pitchers, for example, have an increased risk of ulnar neuropathy due to the twisting motion required to throw certain pitches.

Early symptoms of ulnar neuropathy include:

  • Pain and numbness in the elbow
  • Tingling in the hand, wrist and fingers

If cubital tunnel syndrome advances, symptoms can also include:

  • Weakness in the fingers
  • An inability or decreased ability to pinch the thumb and pinky finger together
  • A weakened hand grip
  • Muscle loss in the hand
  • Claw-like deformity in the hand

Hand and Wrist specialists may order tests such as a nerve conduction study and a test called electromyography. During an Electromyography procedure, specialists place electrodes into muscles and on the skin to measure the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them, confirm the diagnosis, identify the area of nerve damage, and determine the severity of the condition.