Cubital tunnel syndrome is the effect of pressure on the ulnar nerve, one of the main nerves of the hand. It can result in a variety of problems, including pain, swelling, weakness or clumsiness of the hand and tingling or numbness of the ring and small fingers. It also often results in elbow pain on the side of the arm next to the chest.
What caused it?
Like a telephone cable, the ulnar nerve is a connection between the spinal cord and muscles of the forearm and hand as well as the skin on the pinkie side of the hand. The ulnar nerve passes across the back of the elbow, behind a bump on the inner side of the upper arm bone. This bump is called the medial epicondyle. The “funny bone” is actually the corner of the nerve as makes the bend around the elbow. Hitting the elbow at this spot tickles the nerve and gives a brief feeling of a shock or tingling.
When the elbow is bent, the nerve may be stretched and push against the bony bump.
Most people with this problem have a habit of sleeping with either their elbows bent, their arms up by their head, or both. These positions aggravate the problem. Over time, this can progressively irritate the nerve, resulting in numbness of the ring and small finger, weakness of some of the muscles of the hand and forearm, and pain. Nerve damage may occur.
What happens if you have no treatment?
It depends on how much scar tissue has formed around the nerve. Some people will improve on their own, but it is impossible to predict who will. The longer the nerve is irritated, the harder it is to have a full recovery.
If the nerve has been damaged to the point that the fingers don’t straighten properly, they may not recover the ability to straighten even with surgery.
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