What are the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?
Symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment may develop gradually. Early symptoms include numbness and tingling in the little finger and ring finger, as well as pain located near the inside of the elbow. More severe symptoms include:
- Weakness affecting the fingers of the hand
- Clumsiness of the hand and frequently dropping things
- Symptoms that worsen at night
- Pain or a burning sensation in the elbow, palm or last two fingers
- Loss of finger dexterity and coordination
With severe symptoms, it is important to see an orthopedic specialist at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho. It is important to have cubital tunnel syndrome treated promptly for a good outcome, once muscle wasting has begun, it cannot be reversed.
How is ulnar nerve entrapment diagnosed?
Patients in Boise, Meridian, Nampa and the surrounding communities of the Treasure Valley should expect to be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist so that a thorough medical history can be obtained. The orthopedic surgeon will conduct a physical exam of the affected arm, elbow and hand. They may tap on the nerve at the funny bone, check for strength and feeling in the hands and fingers and check to see if the ulnar nerve slides out of place when the elbow is bent.
Additional testing may include a diagnostic test called an electromyogram (EMG). This nerve conduction test is used to find out how fast a signal travels down a nerve and to discover where the nerve may be compressed. It may also determine if muscle weakness is present which may indicate a more severe or advanced cubital tunnel syndrome as a result of prolonged and or severe compression on the ulnar nerve.
How is ulnar nerve entrapment treated?
For most patients, a non-surgical approach is recommended as the first treatment option. Physical and occupational therapy may help strengthen the muscles and tendons located in the elbow and hands. If pain is severe, anti-inflammatory medication may be suggested to reduce inflammation, leading to a reduction in pain. For some patients, a splint may help “rest” the injury, leading to quicker healing by immobilizing the joint, particularly when used at night.
In patients where cubital tunnel syndrome is severe, or in cases of muscle weakness when non-surgical measures have failed to alleviate the symptoms, surgery may be recommended. An incision at the elbow allows the nerve to be decompressed by removing pressure from surrounding tissue. In some cases the nerve may be moved to a location in front of the medial epicondyle so that it is no longer posterior to the access of elbow flexion. This helps take additional pressure off of the nerve and is required in some cases. During this specialized minimally invasive procedure, the nerve is allowed to work more normally hopefully offering a return of normal function. At a minimum, it prevents the sensation and motor function from getting any worse. To discuss which treatment alternative is right for you, seek the advice of a orthopedic specialist who specializes in shoulder and elbow problems like the orthopedic specialists at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho.
If you are experiencing pain in the elbow or numbness and tingling in the little fingers or hand and would like to be evaluated for ulnar nerve entrapment, please contact the orthopedic elbow specialists at The Shoulder Clinic of Idaho serving patients in Boise, Meridian, Nampa and the surrounding communities of the Treasure Valley.