It isn’t very funny when you knock your “funny bone” into something. Suddenly, a sharp, electrifying sensation surges down your arm into your fingers from your elbow; it hurts, but subsides in a few moments. The reason why hitting your elbow hurts so much is because of a nerve that starts in your neck and travels through your arm. This nerve is called the ulnar nerve, and it is located on the inside of the elbow. Sometimes, the tunnel that protects this nerve in your elbow becomes agitated, creating pain through the elbow into the wrist, and the “ring” and “pinky” fingers that often comes in fast and sharp. This agitation is called cubital tunnel syndrome. Jobs, sports and sleeping with your elbows bent can cause inflammation or compression of the ulnar nerve, which can result in pain, tingling, and numbness through the arm. There are two main courses of treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome; conservative and surgical. Pending the results of conservative treatment, more extreme measures, such as surgery, may be required.
Conservative Treatments for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
- Anti-inflammatory medications. Anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to help alleviate the swelling in the cubital tunnel. The inflammation in this area puts pressure on the ulnar nerve, which causes pain and discomfort.
- Splint/Brace for sleeping. Many people sleep with their elbows bent, which puts extra pressure on the cubital tunnel. By sleeping with a brace that keeps the arm straightened, the nerve will not rub on the walls of the cubital tunnel during periods of rest.
Surgical Treatments for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
- Ulnar Nerve Transposition. Sometimes surgery is necessary to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve. During this procedure, the ulnar nerve will be relocated from within the cubital tunnel to in front of it. Here it will be less subject to the stress from repetitive bending of the elbow. After ulnar nerve transposition surgery, the elbow will be immobilized for 2-4 weeks, and the patient can expect to be in physical therapy between 3-4 months.
- Medial Epicondylectomy. In this procedure, the medial epicondyle is removed to alleviate pressure. The recovery process is similar to ulnar nerve transposition, but may last longer.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Treatment in New York
If you have cubital tunnel syndrome or would like more information about available treatments, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Our offices are located in Manhattan, and we can be reached at 212.628.9600. We hope to hear from you soon!