The cubital tunnel refers to a passageway along the inner part of the elbow. Its bounded by bones, muscles and ligaments. A major nerve called the ulnar nerve travels through this tunnel to the hand. If the nerve is squeezed near the elbow, it can cause an ulnar neuropathy. The symptoms include numbness, tingling and weakness in the little finger. Its also called cubital tunnel syndrome.
In fact, when you injure your funny bone, it is usually from trauma to the ulnar nerve. This causes that odd but temporary tingling sensation along the inner part of the arm and hand.
But ulnar neuropathy due to cubital tunnel syndrome may also happen without an injury. These can all lead to cubital tunnel syndrome:
- Leaning on the elbows
- Repetitive motion
- Jobs, activities, or hobbies that put pressure on the elbow
- Arthritis of the elbow
- Changes in position. For example, dont keep your elbow in a bent position and avoiding leaning on your elbows. This reduces pressure on the nerve.
- Protective elbow pads
- Anti-inflammatory drugs or a steroid injection (when arthritis is cause).
If you have significant symptoms that do not improve with these measures, surgery may be the answer.
Several types of surgery can be performed, depending on the cause. For example, a surgeon can make more room for the ulnar nerve by making a small incision (a release) in the scar tissue or part of the muscle lining that has squeezed the nerve. Or, surgeons may need to remove bone spurs and relocate the nerve to a less compressed area of the elbow.
Recovery time varies depending on the operation. But sutures are usually removed and pain from the incision should lessen within 10-14 days. Its important to keep the wound clean and dry just after surgery.
It may take weeks or even months to regain strength in the muscles of the forearm and fingers. Your doctor may recommend a program of stretching and strengthening after the discomfort from surgery has gone away and the wound has healed. In severe cases, complete recovery may take up to a year because nerves grow slowly and it takes them that long to make new connections.