Cubital tunnel syndrome refers to a condition where the ulnar nerve gets trapped within a space in the elbow, resulting in a tingly sensation in the ring and pinky fingers. In other instances, this nerve becomes irritated, causing a pins-and-needles feeling in the two fingers. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome.
How Does Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Occur?
This condition affects the ulnar nerve, often referred to as the funny bone. This nerve originates from your neck. It moves down the arm, through the elbow and towards the hand, ending in the pinky and ring fingers.
Apart from these fingers, the ulnar nerve controls some muscles in your forearm, allowing you to grip things tightly. Furthermore, the nerve provides dexterity, so you can use your fingers more delicately and precisely. For instance, the ulnar nerve facilitates playing a musical instrument and typing on a keyboard.
Cubital tunnel syndrome, also known as ulnar nerve entrapment syndrome, occurs when the nerve is trapped in the cubital tunnel. This tunnel is located on the inside of the elbow between ligaments and a bony part of the elbow known as the medial epicondyle.
The ulnar nerve is most vulnerable at this part of the elbow. When this area is compressed or inflamed, the nerve registers this change. The result is a feeling of pins and needles in your ring and pinky fingers, similar to how carpal tunnel syndrome feels on the thumb, fore- and middle finger.
Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome mainly affects the arm with the nerve in question. In addition, the resulting symptoms progress, becoming more pronounced as the condition progresses.
These symptoms include:
1. Tingling in fingers
Entrapment of the ulnar nerve in the cubital tunnel affects its signal transmission duties. As such, the main fingers the nerve serves get irregular impulses. This registers as a tingling feeling akin to pins and needles in your pinky and ring finger. This uncomfortable feeling is known as Tinel’s sign.
2. Numbness in hands and fingers
The affected fingers become numb due to the continued compression or inflammation of the ulnar nerve. In many instances, the numbness isn’t even, instead occurring at irregular intervals
3. Pain within the elbow joint
One of the common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome is a dull aching pain inside the elbow joint. This pain can be attributed to the ulnar nerve snapping over the earlier-mentioned medial epicondyle. When the nerve moves from its original position, you feel an aching discomfort within the elbow. This is more pronounced when you bend the elbow, further stretching out the nerve in its abnormal position.
4. Difficulty moving affected fingers
Because the nerve controlling the ring finger and pinky is trapped or stretched, it becomes more challenging for nerve impulses to make it across reliably. Consequently, it’s more difficult to move the fingers to manipulate objects.
5. Weak grip
If the ring and pinky finger aren’t functioning optimally, you might find it more difficult to grip objects. In addition, the ulnar nerve also controls some of the muscles in the forearm responsible for gripping. Therefore, the condition causes weaker grip strength.
Timely cubital tunnel syndrome treatment options like hand therapy and surgery prevent these symptoms from progressing into more severe complications.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome, book a consultation with a hand specialist at The Harley Clinic.
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