Cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition that involves pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness and tingling in the ring finger, small finger, pain in the forearm, and/or weakness in the hand. The ulnar nerve, also known as the funny bone nerve, runs through a narrow space in the elbow called the cubital tunnel. Additionally, the ulnar nerve travels under a bump of bone (medial epicondyle) inside the elbow, which is commonly referred to as the funny bone. Between the cubital tunnel and the medial epicondyle, there is very little soft tissue to protect the ulnar nerve. When the ulnar nerve is compressed or the cubital tunnel becomes inflamed, swollen, or irritated, the result is call cubital tunnel syndrome.




Cubital tunnel syndrome is often the result of:

  • Pressure that compresses the nerve and causes the ring finger and small finger to “fall asleep”
  • Stretching of the ulnar nerve from keep the elbow bent for an extended period of time, causing abnormal pressure on the nerve
  • Repeatedly leaning on the elbow, especially on hard surfaces
  • Anatomy within the elbow that causes the ulnar nerve to snap back and forth over a bony bump in the elbow, resulting in irritation of the nerve


Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome are often felt when the elbow is bent for a long period of time, such as holding a phone or while sleeping. Other common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Pain that feels similar to the pain you fell when you hit the “funny bone” in your elbow
  • Loss of sensation in the hand and fingers
  • Tingling, or feeling of “pins and needles” in the ring finger and small finger
  • Weakness in the ring finger and small finger, and reduction in overall grip strength


Proper diagnosis begins with a physical examination. Your physician will ask about your symptoms, as well as perform a number of physical tests to determine the severity of the condition. Other diagnostic procedures include:

  • Nerve conduction study: tests used to measure nerve signals traveling to the hand and wrist to determine if nerve signals are being interrupted. Nerve condition studies also can diagnose the severity of the problem to help guide treatment options. This test also check for other problems such as a pinched nerve in the neck, which can cause similar symptoms
  • Electromyogram (EMG): an EMG measures electrical activity in the muscles, and can determine if there is any nerve or muscle damage


Cubital tunnel syndrome can be relieved using non-surgical treatment options if diagnosed and treated early.

  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications: can reduce swelling and relieve pain in the hand and wrist
  • Bracing or splinting: at night will keep your elbow in a straight or natural position, and will reduce the amount of pressure on the ulnar nerve
  • Wearing a pad over the elbow can protect the ulnar nerve from being bumped throughout the day
  • Occupational therapy: can strength the muscles around the elbow joint to help reduce painful symptoms
  • Steroid injections: can help address symptoms and reduce inflammation


If non-surgical treatments fail to reduce the symptoms associated with cubital tunnel syndrome, surgery may be recommended. The goal of surgery is to relieve the pressure on the ulnar nerve. This is achieved by releasing the nerve, moving the nerve from behind the elbow to the front of the elbow, or removing part of the bone.




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