Have you ever hit your funny bone? If so, then you are familiar with your ulnar nerve. Your funny bone is not a bone, but your ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve is the nerve involved in cubital tunnel syndrome.
The ulnar nerve runs from the neck to the fingers, just like the median or carpal tunnel nerve. Similar to the median nerve, it innervates the muscles in the hand as well as some skin on the digits. Whereas the median nerve innervates the skin on the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers the ulnar innervates the skin on the small and ring fingers. Also, the ulnar nerve innervates many more small muscles in the hand.
Hitting your funny bone or ulnar nerve is a direct trauma to the ulnar nerve at the level of the elbow and usually does not result in any permanent damage. Cubital tunnel syndrome is like carpal tunnel syndrome in that it is usually a slowly progressive compression on the ulnar nerve at the elbow.
Cubital tunnel syndrome can result in many different symptoms. Some people present with numbness in the small and ring finger, some present with hand weakness or loss of musculature in the hand. Almost all patients experience some sort of pain or discomfort at their elbow. Usually patients’ symptoms are exacerbated while doing activities that place their elbow in a bent position such as talking on the phone or driving a car.
Most of the time cubital syndrome is mild in nature and can be eliminated with therapy. In more severe cases or in cases in which therapy is not working there is a simple surgical procedure that involves taking pressure off the nerve at the level of the elbow. This can be done in an outpatient setting and involves little to no down time and stitches are removed in 1-2 weeks.