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Understanding Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: The Importance of Physical Therapy Care

Understanding Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: The Importance of Physical Care

Cubital tunnel syndrome can be a mouthful- but it is quite simple. It’s the condition that occurs when the ulnar nerve becomes entrapped or inflamed. Here’s some more information on this condition and how to treat it with conservative care tactics.

What is the Cubital Tunnel? What is the ulnar nerve?

The ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves that run down your arms. It starts up near your neck, and travels all the way down to your hands. In fact, the ulnar nerve is responsible for providing feeling to your pinky finger and half of your ring finger on each hand (both the palm and the back of the hand as well)! 

The ulnar nerve passes through a few different tunnels from your collar bone all the way down to the fingers. One of those tunnels is known as the cubital tunnel, which is located under a bump of bone on the inside of your elbow. The spot where the nerve runs under that bump of bone (also known as the medial epicondyle) is often referred to as your funny bone! 

Ultimately, if the part of the ulnar nerve that is in the cubital tunnel gets compressed inside, or becomes inflamed, it’s known as cubital tunnel syndrome.

Causes of cubital tunnel syndrome 

There are actually a few different causes for cubital tunnel syndrome. However there are many cases where the actual cause is not known. It may happen when a person bends the elbow often, like when they are pulling, reaching, or stretching.  If there was an injury, or you have a tendency to lean on the elbow a lot, that could also be a cause of cubital tunnel syndrome. 

Some other potential causes for CTS (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome) include having too much pressure on it, keeping it stretched in one position for too long, or even anatomy. When bending your elbow for a long period of time, the nerve behind your elbow may stretch. This can happen even while you're sleeping. Direct pressure (such as leaning the forearm on an armrest) may also put pressure on the nerve. The ulnar nerve only has a little bit of padding over it for protection, so direct pressure on it may lead to the forearm and hand — particularly the ring and small fingers — ''falling asleep.''

The anatomy of your elbow may also be the problem. If the nerve can’t stay in place, and it's snapped back and forth over a bony bump, the nerve may become irritated. In some cases, the nerve's soft tissue gets thicker, or there's an extra muscle on the nerve that's preventing it from working correctly.

Signs & symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome

It is always important to remember that each patient may experience symptoms differently, but the most common symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome is numbness and tingling in the ring and pinky finger. It often comes and goes, and can happen more often when the elbow is bent.  Other symptoms include aching pain on the inside of the elbow, hand pain, and also a weak grip.

These symptoms may share similarities to other common issues, such as a golfer's elbow. As such, it is always important to get in touch with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

If you're suffering from an elbow injury, consulting a physical therapist can be a great option. Physical therapy can help you effectively and safely recover from the cubital tunnel. Your BC + PT physical therapist will guide you through all the necessary exercises and stretches to help strengthen soft tissues, tendons, and muscles in your wrists, elbows, and arms.

A physical therapist providing 1:1 attention, like the ones at BC + PT, can educate each individual on how to avoid a recurrence of pain. They can also provide you with a combination of both active and passive treatments to help give you the best and most versatile treatment available. Now that you are ready to take the next step on your recovery journey, give us a call today or fill out one of our contact forms. Stop hurting and start healing with us today!


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