Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Learn about cubital tunnel syndrome, the ulnar nerve, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and how Lehigh Valley Health Network treats this condition.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve, which passes through a tunnel of muscle, ligament and bone known as the cubital tunnel on the inside of the elbow, becomes compressed due to chronic irritation, injury or pressure.

Cubital tunnel syndrome feels similar to the pain that occurs from hitting the funny bone in your elbow. The funny bone in the elbow is actually the ulnar nerve, a nerve that begins in the side of the neck, crosses the elbow and ends in the fingers.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Pain and numbness in the elbow 
  • Numbness in the hand and/or ring and little finger
  • Hand pain
  • Hand and thumb clumsiness due to muscle weakness

Cubital tunnel syndrome may occur if you frequently bend your elbows, such as when pulling, reaching or lifting; constantly lean on the elbow; or sustain a direct injury to the area.

Treatment for the condition includes: 

  • Stopping the activity that aggravates the condition is the first step. Our physicians can help identify which movements are causing the problem and help you change those arm and elbow use patterns.
  • Wearing a splint or foam elbow pad at night can help limit movement and reduce irritation. During the day, an elbow pad can protect against chronic irritation from hard surfaces.
  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, helps reduce swelling around the nerve.
  • Surgery can be done to make more room for the nerve when symptoms are severe or do not improve with other treatments.