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Cubital tunnel syndrome


Do you have numbness or tingling in one or more of your ring fingers or little fingers? Perhaps you’re experiencing a loss of finger or hand strength. Orthopaedic surgeon Lorcan McGonagle of LMcG Orthopaedics in Geraldton outlines the signs, symptoms and treatment options.

What is the cubital tunnel?

The cubital tunnel is a narrow groove in a bone near your elbow. This groove provides a passage for the ulnar nerve, one of the main nerves in your arm. The ulnar nerve can cause “funny bone” pain if you bump your elbow. Your cubital tunnel helps protect this nerve where it goes through your elbow and down to your fingers.

What are the signs and symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?

  • Numbness or tingling in the ring fingers and little fingers
  • Loss of finger or hand strength
  • Inability to straighten fingers
  • Sharp, sudden pain when the elbow is touched
  • Shrinking of hand muscles

What are the risk factors for developing cubital tunnel syndrome?

Common risk factors include:

  • Keeping arms bent regularly

  • Leaning on the elbows for extended periods

  • Intense physical activity

  • Arthritis

  • Bone spurs

  • Previous elbow fractures or dislocations

  • Pulling, lifting or reaching for items on a continuous basis

  • Using vibrating tools regularly

  • Lifting weights that are too heavy

Will cubital tunnel syndrome go away on its own?

Cubital tunnel syndrome may go away on its own. In other cases, you may need Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to decrease your symptoms. These medicines decrease swelling and pain. Your doctor will explain which medicine is right for you and how much to take.

Is surgery recommended for cubital tunnel syndrome?

If your symptoms do not respond to conservative treatment or if the pain is severe, surgery may be necessary. Your doctor may recommend surgery if you are experiencing muscle loss or weakness in your hands because of cubital tunnel syndrome. During the procedure, your orthopaedic surgeon will expose the irritated, compressed or stretched ulnar nerve and either release it, move it or remove part of it.

What are the risks and complications of cubital tunnel syndrome surgery?

Most patients suffer no complications following cubital tunnel surgery. In general, elbow surgery complications can include infection, nerve damage, elbow instability and elbow flexion contracture.

Cubital tunnel syndrome: LMcG Orthopaedics

Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause considerable pain and disability for patients. At LMcG Orthopaedics, Doctor Lorcan McGonagle provides a range of orthopaedic surgeries and treatments. Dr McGonagle’s specialties include knees, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, hip, foot and ankle.

If you have a question for Dr McGonagle and his Geraldton team, please get in touch with the clinic today on 08 9921 4847. LMcG Orthopaedics is located in Suite 6, St John of God Specialist Centre, 12 Hermitage Street, Geraldton.

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