image denoting elbow pain

Most people have heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which can be a painful condition that affects the wrists, hands, and fingers. But many have not heard about another common nerve entrapment syndrome that causes extreme pain and disability in people. And that is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, a type of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome that seems to be more prevalent now than ever before. But why? Take a few minutes and learn what exactly Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. You will learn what causes it and what you can do to prevent it.

What It Is

The cubital tunnel is an area of bone, muscle and ligaments in the elbow where the ulnar nerve that goes from your neck to your hand runs through. This juncture is what is commonly referred to as the ‘funny bone’. When you bump or agitate this area, you get the pain or tingling feeling that can run down your forearm into your fingers. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is when the ulnar nerve becomes injured in any way. The most common ways the nerve is injured is by being compressed, stretched, inflamed or irritated.

But what causes the types of injuries that lead to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome? For those who work at a computer, spending large amounts of time with pressure on your elbow (whether on your chair arm or desk) is a popular cause. If you hold your elbow in a bent position (think talking on a phone) for prolonged periods of time you can become susceptible to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. A traumatic injury to your elbow like falling on it or banging into a wall can lead to it, as can continuously moving the elbow in awkward positions (think a baseball pitcher). Often times the root cause of the ailment is unknown.

Professional baseball pitcher throwing the ball

How You’ll Know You Have It

Although there a number of conditions that can lead to severe elbow pain and numbness in the hand, here are some that could indicate that you have Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. Remember, you should see a healthcare professional to accurately diagnose any ailment you may have, and to provide proper treatment:

  1. Pins and needles/numbness in your fingers, specifically the ring finger and pinkie.
  2. Weakness in the hand.
  3. Pain in the elbow and/or hand.

How to Treat It

If your case of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is mild enough, you may be able to reverse the symptoms simply by avoiding what caused it in the first place. Spend less time with your elbow bent. Don’t put pressure on it. Avoid hitting your elbow on hard surfaces. Sit correctly at a computer. To help in these cases, wearing a protective guard over your elbow is sometimes advisable.

For more severe cases you can treat with anti-inflammatory drugs and some rehabilitation exercises. A cortisone shot is sometimes administered to help with pain.

As a last resort surgery can be an option. There are different types of surgeries that can be done depending on the condition of the nerve and what is causing the symptoms. They range from moving the nerve to a new place in the elbow region to decompressing the nerve.

How to Prevent Cubital Tunnel

employee stretching at desk

Preventing Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is much like treatment for mild cases of it. Treat your elbow careful throughout the day and night. Don’t lean on it too much. Refrain from bending it for prolong periods of time (whether awake or asleep). Don’t slam it into anything. Don’t move it in weird directions.

Some tips to achieve this are to make an effort to stretch your arms throughout the day. You can also make your workstation ergonomic. By using the appropriate equipment you can lower the risk of repetitive stress injuries like Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Goldtouch offers ergonomic keyboards and mice that are specifically designed to make users more comfortable and to reduce the strain on arms and wrists. Setting up your chair, desk and monitors at the correct height and distance are also recommended to reduce the possibility of acquiring a repetitive stress injury.

Our hope is that you never find yourself with pain or weakness in your elbow and hand to a point where you are researching whether or not you have Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. If you do, we recommend talking with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to accurately diagnose your condition, and map out a plan to treat it. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome can be a painful and debilitating injury. Being aware that there are ways to lower your risk of coming down with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (and other repetitive stress injuries) can be your most effective weapon against it.

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