If you experience unexplained tingling, numbness or weakness in your elbow, pinky finger or ring finger, you may wonder why you have your symptoms and what you can do about them. You mostly have an orthopedic problem called cubital tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when something suppresses or injures the ulnar nerve. Here's what cubital tunnel syndrome is, how it develops and what you can do to treat it.
What's Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Cubital tunnel syndrome affects the ulnar nerve, which begins near your neck or shoulder blade, travels down the inside of your arm and ends in your fingers. You have one nerve on each side of your body. You can cause temporary problems with the ulnar nerve when you hit your "funny" bone. The nerve tingles for a little while, then stops. But unlike the tingling in your funny bone, cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms don't go away so easily.
Cubital tunnel syndrome develops when you apply constant pressure to the ulnar nerve during sleep, such as keeping your elbow bent under your pillow or behind your head. The nerve presses against the bony protrusion of your elbow. You can also injure the nerve during a car accident or when you slip and fall and land on your arm. Some individuals experience the syndrome from repeated lifting and carrying objects, or when they overstretch the arm by repeatedly throwing something overhead, such as a javelin or ball.
The symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome vary from person to person but usually include tingling in the hand and fingers. You can also experience muscle weakness, pain and numbness in your hand, which may cause you to be clumsy or drop things. Cubital tunnel syndrome symptoms can become worse without the proper diagnosis and treatment.
How Do You Treat and Manage Your Symptoms?
One of the things you can do is speak to an orthopedic surgeon or doctor about your symptoms. An orthopedist will most likely examine your arm with an EMG, or electromyogram. An EMG are designed to see how well your ulnar nerve and muscles perform during different exercises. The ulnar nerve allows the muscles in your arm to move, flex and and bend. If your nerve is damaged or suppressed, your muscles won't perform their functions well. The test results may reveal that you have ulnar nerve problems.
An electromyogram isn't the only test a doctor may perform on you. Some specialists use nerve conduction tests on their patients in order to diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome. Nerve conduction tests for cubital tunnel syndrome allow a doctor to determine how fast or slow the ulnar nerve reacts to stimuli in different locations in your arm. If the area being tested reacts slowly to the stimulation, it may indicate that you have nerve suppression in that location. A doctor may repeat the test throughout your arm to see if there are other areas of suppression they need to diagnose and treat.
Treatments for the syndrome may include wearing a brace over your elbow at night to keep the arm straight. You may undergo physical therapy to regain strength in your arm, hand and fingers if you experience severe muscle weakness and numbness. It's also possible to have orthopedic surgery to repair the nerve if it's too suppressed and damaged. A surgeon can also remove the bony protrusion of your elbow so that it doesn't irritate or suppress your ulnar nerve anymore. An orthopedist will discuss all of your treatment options in greater detail when you see them.
After treatment, you may wish to sleep with your arms at your sides to help reduce your symptoms. Also, consider using other methods to lift and carry objects, such as using a lift machine and trolley to transport items from place to place.
For more information about cubital tunnel syndrome, contact an orthopedic doctor or surgeon today.