Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that results from the compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve in the cubital tunnel, a narrow passageway in the elbow. The ulnar nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the ring and little fingers, as well as controlling some of the muscles in the hand. When the nerve becomes compressed, it can cause symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected hand.
Causes of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the most common causes include:
Repetitive elbow movements: Activities that involve repetitive bending or flexing of the elbow, such as typing, playing musical instruments, or using power tools, can cause the ulnar nerve to become compressed or irritated.
Prolonged pressure on the elbow: Resting the elbow on hard surfaces for extended periods of time, such as when sleeping, can also compress the ulnar nerve.
Direct injury to the nerve: Trauma to the elbow, such as a fracture or dislocation, can cause damage to the ulnar nerve.
Anatomical abnormalities: In some cases, individuals may be born with an abnormally small cubital tunnel or with bone spurs that can compress the ulnar nerve.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or thyroid dysfunction, can increase the risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome by causing inflammation or nerve damage.
Signs and Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
The signs and symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve. Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in the elbow
- Tingling or numbness in the ring and little fingers
- Weakness in the hand, particularly in gripping or pinching
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or typing
- A feeling of “pins and needles” in the hand or fingers
- Loss of coordination in the affected hand
- Decreased sensitivity to touch or temperature in the affected fingers
The symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome can worsen over time, especially if left untreated. In some cases, the nerve compression can lead to muscle wasting and permanent nerve damage, so it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
Treatment for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome, particularly in cases where the condition is caused by overuse or compression. Some common physiotherapy treatments for cubital tunnel syndrome include:
Nerve gliding exercises: These exercises can help to mobilize the ulnar nerve and reduce compression in the cubital tunnel. They involve gentle movements of the affected arm and hand that stretch and release tension in the nerve.
Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises can help to improve muscle function and reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve. Exercises may target the forearm, wrist, and hand muscles.
Postural correction: Poor posture can contribute to nerve compression in the elbow. A physiotherapist can help to identify and correct any postural issues that may be contributing to the condition.
Manual therapy: Soft tissue massage, joint mobilization, and other manual therapy techniques can help to reduce tension in the muscles and improve circulation to the affected area.
Activity modification: A physiotherapist can help to identify activities or movements that may be aggravating the condition and provide guidance on modifying these activities to reduce symptoms.
Overall, physiotherapy can help to improve function and reduce pain in individuals with cubital tunnel syndrome. A physiotherapist can develop an individualized treatment plan based on the specific needs and symptoms of each patient.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about cubital tunnel syndrome please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C., Cleland, J. A., Ortega-Santiago, R., de-la-Llave-Rincón, A. I., Martínez-Perez, A., Pareja, J. A., & Cuadrado, M. L. (2015). Effectiveness of physical therapy for patients with cubital tunnel syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy