On the inner portion of the elbow, there is a small, bony bump called the medial epicondyle. The ulnar nerve rests under this bump and any pressure on the bump or the surrounding area can be felt in the ulnar nerve. This pressure results in the tingling discomfort that radiates down the arm and into the fingers. This sensation is often referred to as hitting your “funny bone.”
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome refers to pressure on the ulnar nerve which disturbs its natural function and causes constant pain. This syndrome can occur in a variety of ways, all of which include prolonged pressure on the ulnar nerve which is very close to the bone and has little protection. Pain can result when the bone is bent for an extended period of time. This can occur during sleep.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
If you are experiencing constant pain in this area of the elbow, you should consult with a physician specializing in treatment of the elbow, such as Dr. Leah Urbanosky of Hinsdale Orthopaedics. He or she will assess your symptoms and strength of your muscles with simple tests that include tapping the affected area. An electromyography, or an EMG, which tests the nerve response, may be done to confirm the condition.
Some symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome include:
Treatment for this condition depends mostly on the amount of pressure on the ulnar nerve. Sometimes, anti-inflammatory medications as well as simple lifestyle accommodations may help relieve pain in the elbow. A physical therapist may also have suggestions for minimizing pain or avoiding movements that cause pain.
While it is estimated that four out of five people do not need surgery to fix Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, surgery may be needed in order to permanently eliminate discomfort. The surgery can vary based on the particular surgeon and the severity of the condition. Some surgeons will recommend moving the physical location of the nerve to relieve tension, whereas others may opt to protect the nerve by adding a layer of tissue or fat. (This is called an ulnar nerve transposition.) In addition, the actual “funny bone” bump may be shaved down in order to allow movement of the nerve. (This procedure is referred to as a medial epiconylectomy.)
Recovery is also dependent on a case-by-case basis, though most patients will benefit from some physical therapy and restricted movement in order to promote healing. Full recovery may take up to a few months.
If you think that you may be experiencing Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, contact Dr. Leah Urbanosky for a consultation: (815) 462-3474.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
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