Nerve Entrapment at the Elbow

The ulnar nerve starts at the side of your neck and ends at your fingers. It helps you move your wrist, arm and hand and provides sensation to your ring and little fingers. The ulnar nerve passes through a tunnel of ligament, muscle and bone located on the inside of your elbow called the cubital tunnel.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when your ulnar nerve becomes injured, swollen, inflamed or compressed inside the cubital tunnel. The feeling is often described as similar to hitting the “funny bone” in your elbow.

Anatomical issues, excessive pressure or over-stretching your elbow may prompt cubital tunnel syndrome, but in many instances, the cause unknown.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Although each person experiences cubital tunnel syndrome differently, common symptoms include:

  • Tingling and numbness in your ring and little finger or hand, especially when bending your elbow
  • Numbness and tingling that worsens at night
  • Pain in your hand or the inside of your elbow
  • Weakened grip and loss of hand or finger coordination
  • Clawlike deformity of your wrist and hand
  • Muscle wasting in your hand, in severe cases

Diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome includes a thorough physical examination and review of your medical history. Other tests may include:

  • X-rays to view the bones in your elbow
  • MRI scan to view your ulnar nerve and nearby structures
  • Nerve conduction tests to assess how well your ulnar nerve is working
  • Electromyography (EMG) to determine the health of your ulnar nerve and the muscles it controls
  • Nerve biopsy in rare cases

Full recovery from cubital tunnel syndrome is common if the cause of the nerve dysfunction is successfully identified and treated, especially if done in the early stages of the condition. In more severe cases, you may experience partial or complete loss of sensation or movement.

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Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics, including arthritis care and joint arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery).

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

Confidence in Treatment Through Education

We developed a special joint replacement education website just for patients undergoing joint arthroplasty. The website takes you step by step through the joint replacement process. From things to consider before choosing surgery to recovery after surgery, you’ll find the information you need to help you feel confident in your decision to undergo joint replacement.

Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research

The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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