Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome  is a common condition where one of the major nerves (the ulnar nerve or “funny bone”) of the upper extremity becomes compressed or “pinched” in a small tunnel at the elbow. The most common symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome is numbness or tingling of the last one and a half fingers of the hand (half of the ring finger and the small finger). 

Tingling is often worse at night or first thing in the morning. It may be provoked by activities that involve flexing the elbow, or by sleeping with the elbow flexed. In early cubital tunnel syndrome, the tingling is temporary and returns to normal. However, this condition is progressive. If left untreated, the condition will worsen over time, leading to permanent muscle deterioration and the inability to grip objects. 


The goal in treating cubital tunnel syndrome is to improve the feelings of numbness, tingling, and pain while also ensuring the condition does not progress to cause irreversible damage to the ulnar nerve.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome


Rest and Activity Modification

Resting the affected arm and avoiding activities that worsen symptoms can help alleviate pressure on the ulnar nerve.

Bracing or Splinting

Wearing a padded brace or splint can keep the elbow in a slightly flexed position, reducing pressure on the nerve.

Medication and Supplements

Over-the-counter Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or prescription-strength options can help reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) supplements may be recommended to support nerve health.

Physical Therapy

Therapeutic exercises can improve strength and flexibility in the arm while nerve gliding exercises help the ulnar nerve glide smoothly, reducing nerve compression.

Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections around the affected area to reduce inflammation and pain temporarily.

Surgical Treatments


Decompression and/or Transposition Surgery

Also known as a “cubital tunnel release,” this procedure involves relieving pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow, which is a common approach to treating the condition. In certain cases, your surgeon may move the nerve from its original location to a location that is more favorable for nerve healing and regeneration, often in cases that require revision after a previously failed procedure.

Nerve Transfers

Nerve transfers can be performed to redirect or replace damaged nerve pathways, often used in severe cases.


Why Patients Trust the Center for Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery

Our state-of-the-art center is recognized as one of the top facilities in the country for nerve surgery. Here, we specialize exclusively in the intricate procedures of the hand and upper extremities. Our distinguished team of expert surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and surgical technicians deliver a personalized and compassionate experience for every patient, guiding them every step of the way from diagnosis to treatment and recovery. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you suspect you have cubital tunnel syndrome or experience persistent symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in your hand and arm, it is crucial to seek prompt medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from worsening and may provide a better chance for non-surgical interventions to be effective. 


Can cubital tunnel syndrome resolve on its own?
It may improve with rest, but it often requires medical intervention.
Is cubital tunnel syndrome related to carpal tunnel syndrome?
They affect different nerves but share similar symptoms and risk factors.
What are the risk factors for developing cubital tunnel syndrome?

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing cubital tunnel syndrome, including:

  • Repetitive elbow flexion
  • Direct pressure on the elbow
  • Trauma or injury
  • Occupation
  • Obesity 
  • Underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis
  • Family history
What causes cubital tunnel syndrome?

Although there have been many theories for why cubital tunnel syndrome occurs (related to work, repetitive activities, specific motions, etc), the true cause is often unknown. Risk factors for developing cubital tunnel syndrome may include:

  • Joint dislocations
  • Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • Fluid build-up during pregnancy
How is cubital tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

To diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome, your doctor will perform a physical examination and complete medical history. Additional testing may be requested to help confirm the diagnosis, including: 

  • A Nerve Conduction Study 
  • Electromyography
  • Ultrasound or X-Ray 
Can cubital tunnel syndrome come back after treatment?

Recurrence is possible, especially if risk factors aren't addressed.

HUES Surgeons

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