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WHAT IS CUBITAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?

The ulnar nerve is a big nerve, which is present behind the inside of the lower part of the arm bone. It passes through a bony groove before it enters the forearm. If this area is bumped a sensation of pins and needles is felt in the forearm and the little and ring fingers. This is what has led to the arm bone being called the funny bone.

Any cause that puts pressure on the ulnar nerve in this bony groove leads to cubital tunnel syndrome.

 

WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF CUBITAL TUNNEL SYNDROME

Fractures or dislocations of the elbow can lead to irritation of the ulnar nerve. Swelling in this region, excessive scar tissue or overuse of the elbow can cause inflammation. Nerve compression is also seen in diabetics and in people who suffer from arthritis particularly, rheumatoid arthritis.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

The symptoms initially start with a sensation of pins and needles over the side of the forearm opposite the thumb and the little and ring fingers. Gradually this can lead to a loss of sensation in the same area particularly to the fingers and also to a loss of power. The bulk of the muscles in the region of the little finger may decrease.


HOW IS THIS DIAGNOSED?

The diagnosis is made by taking a history and examining the nerve. Tapping the nerve produces the symptoms of pins and needles. A very sensitive nerve suggests that it is either inflamed or compressed. It may be necessary to do a special test known as a nerve conduction study, which tests the electrical conduction of the nerve.


WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

In the early stages the treatment is by applying ice to the area and wearing a splint to keep the elbow straight particularly at night. It is also important to avoid activities where the elbow is repeatedly bent. If this fails then surgical options are considered. A cut made over the inside of the elbow. The ulnar nerve is identified and released by removing compressing factors.