Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

By james
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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The ulnar nerve travels all the way down to our hands. It is an important nerve for us because it helps to give us sensation in our hands and arms. As it makes its way to our hands, the nerve travels through a groove at the elbow.

In some instances, the nerve can develop problems in the elbow such as being stretched too much or tissues around it thickening and limiting its ability to function. This is a condition known as cubital tunnel syndrome, and it causes a number of unwelcome symptoms. Here’s a closer look at what those symptoms are.

1. Pain

One of the most common, and most unpleasant, symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome is the pain it can cause. The severity of the pain will likely range from person to person, but it will usually be experienced in their hand. The pain is also often experienced in the elbow itself, and is often described as being similar to when we hit our “funny bone.” For some patients, the pain involved can be quite unbearable and cause a significant negative impact on their quality of life. Painkilling drugs will likely help, but they need to be used with caution because they can be addictive.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

2. Numb Hands

The ulnar nerve passes signals between our hands and our brain. Thus, when there is a problem with the nerve, messages from the hands will often not be able to make it to the brain. This results in a loss of sensation in what we experience as numbness. In addition to numbness, patients will also often experience a tingling sensation, similar to pins and needles.

This will mostly be felt in the little finger and ring finger, and/or in the hand. If you do experience prolonged numbness in your hands or other extremities then you should arrange to get it checked out.

3. Night Tingling

Some symptoms are really quite specific and this will help medical professionals to get to the route of the problem quicker. In instances of cubital tunnel syndrome, for example, the patient can notice that the tingling sensation becomes more evident at night.

This tingling at night can be very uncomfortable and can even make it difficult for some people to sleep. If you do notice this symptom at night then you should make sure to let your doctor know if/when you see them. Every bit of information can be useful in helping them to do their job to the best of their ability.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

4. Numb Elbow

Elbows are quite pointy and have a habit of being knocked against tables and other objects. Hit it hard enough and in the wrong place, it can be rather painful to experience. This may not be the case in instances of cubital tunnel syndrome, however. One symptom that people with the condition are likely to experience is a numb elbow.

Again, this is because problems with the ulnar nerve means that signals are not getting to the brain as they usually would. Continued numbness in any part of the body suggests a nerve problem and should encourage you to get it checked.

5. Ache in Elbow

There are different types of pain that can be experienced. Often, pain is an intense sensation that is difficult to bear. At other times, it can be more of a dull sensation that is more bearable, although still rather uncomfortable. The latter type of pain is often referred to as an ache, and it is a symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome.

The ache associated with the condition will usually be felt on the inside of the elbow. It can cause considerable discomfort for the patient and might also limit their mobility to an extent. You should speak with a medical professional if you are experiencing such a symptom that will not go away.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

6. Weak Grip

We have evolved to have a fairly strong grip. It may not be as strong as some other animals, particularly those that live in trees, but it is still strong enough for us to grasp tightly onto objects and to lift heavy objects. This may not be the case in people that have cubital tunnel syndrome, however.

A lot of patients with the condition will find that their grip becomes weaker than it usually is. This is because the brain begins to lose the ability to send signals to the muscles that allow us to grip. This is another sign that you should arrange to see your doctor, regardless of the suspected cause.

7. Muscle Wasting

Sporting people will know that if you don’t use your muscles then they will begin to waste away. It is only natural, and few people who do little exercise will have a muscly build. Regardless, our muscles still tend to maintain a certain level of strength. After all, we still do use them even if it is only to get to work and perform our daily chores.

With the problems that are caused by cubital tunnel syndrome, the muscles affected will be used a lot less than they usually would be. This can cause muscles in the hand to start to waste away, potentially causing the hand to look smaller than it usually would do.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

8. Claw-Hand

Some people will experience conditions like arthritis when they grow older. This can be painful, limit their movement, and can also result in some very unsightly deformities. Arthritis is not the only condition that can cause this, and cubital tunnel syndrome is another potential cause.

Patients with the condition will sometimes find that their little finger and ring finger will curl up when relaxed. This can result in the hand taking on a claw-like appearance. When this deformity does arise, it is a sign that the condition has reached an advanced stage and treatment should be sought if it has not been already.

9. Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a condition that is caused by the overuse of the muscles that are attached to the elbow. It gets its name because it is often a problem acquired by tennis players, although just about anybody can get the condition. The symptoms of tennis elbow are similar to those of cubital tunnel syndrome so the two are often confused for each other.

Despite their similarities, however, the two are quite different and require different treatments. Still, it is not uncommon for a wrong diagnosis to be made. Cubital tunnel syndrome can also be mistaken for some other conditions, asides from tennis elbow.

10. Injury

One of the main causes of cubital tunnel syndrome is recently suffering an injury to the area. The injury can cause the ulnar nerve to become trapped or damaged, or surrounding tissues might be damaged, thus leading to cubital tunnel syndrome.

While cubital tunnel is not the cause of such injuries, having had one fairly recently might give a clue as to what the problem is if you are experiencing cubital tunnel syndrome. If you have injured your elbow recently, no matter how mild the injury was, it is a good idea to let your doctor know.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

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