Home > Conditions Treated > Peripheral Nerve Disorders > Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is sometimes referred to as ulnar neuropathy or “Tardy Ulnar Palsy”. It results from the compression of the ulnar nerve around the elbow.

The compression of the ulnar nerve can be in the funny bone region of the elbow. It can be from a tight fibrous band near or just above or below the elbow itself.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome

Patients usually experience numbness and tingling along with the little finger and part of the ring finger. This might be accompanied with a feeling of weakness and more rarely muscle wasting. Some of the other symptoms include pain in the hand and pain around the elbow and a reduced grip of the hand.

Causes of cubital tunnel syndrome 

The cubital tunnel syndrome can be caused due to enhanced pressure on the ulnar nerve, which traverses near to the surface of the skin of the elbow. The pressure can increase, resulting in the development of cubital syndrome, when any of the below mentioned activities are performed:

  • Repeatedly keeping the elbow on a hard and rough surface.
  • Bent elbow for elongated periods of time such as while sleeping, talking on phone.
  • Intense physical activity can result in added pressure on the ulnar nerve. This can happen to athletes and as such, they are at an increased risk of having cubital tunnel syndrome.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase the risk of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • Arthritis in the joint of the elbow
  • Cyst around the joints of the elbow
  • Fracture in the elbow
  • Extended or elongated bending of the elbow, through some activities.

Complications of cubital tunnel syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome can worsen, if it is not treated for a long period of time. The longer the compression of the ulnar nerve the increase in symptoms experienced. This can cause hands to weaken, the grip of hands to become weak and can cause permanent damage of the nerve. 

The surgical treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome can further result in some complications as mentioned below:

  • Loss of sensation
  • Unrelieved symptoms
  • Permanent neurological deficit

Diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome

The cubital tunnel syndrome can be detected and diagnosed using a nerve conduction study. This study is conducted if the patient is experiencing the afore-mentioned symptoms, but not experiencing any neck pain or shooting pain around the arm. The additional symptoms of neck pain might indicate a separate condition. Diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome include the below-mentioned tests:


X-ray is done to have a detailed look at the bones to understand if there is any bone spur or arthritis in the elbow.

Nerve conduction test

Nerve conduction tests help the physician to understand if there is any compression of the nerve.


During this test, the  muscles connected to the ulnar nerve are checked for any issue. Any contingency indicates the problem with the ulnar nerve.

Treatment of cubital tunnel syndrome

When the symptoms are mild and there are no significant signs on examination, it is reasonable to try the conservative treatments. This includes a trial of physiotherapy and occupational therapy. 

Surgical decompression is recommended if:

  • Symptoms are persistent despite conservative treatment
  • Symptoms are bothersome at the initial presentation

Surgery is usually done with the administration of a general anaesthetic. An incision around the elbow is made in the curvilinear fashion to decompress the nerve.

Some other non invasive treatments, which can be helpful are as mentioned:

  • Nerve gliding exercise
  • Elbow pads to protect the elbow
  • Restricting certain activities, which aggravate the condition
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Wearing splint at night to restrict movement


To prevent cubital tunnel syndrome, you should consider doing the following:

  • Avoid resting the elbows on hard surfaces and avoid putting pressure on the nerve of the elbow.
  • Keep strength and flexibility by doing certain exercises
  • Warm-up before exercise

Frequently asked questions

Is cubital tunnel syndrome very common?

The elbow is extensively prone to injuries. In fact, after knee, elbow is most prone to injury. Hence, it should not surprising that the cubital tunnel is one of the most common nerve compression conditions along with the carpal tunnel.

What activities can cause cubital tunnel syndrome?

Some activities such as heavy lifting, prolonged flexion of the elbow, resting elbow on a hard surface, and using a vibrating tool can increase the risk of ulnar compression and hence cubital tunnel syndrome.

Can sports lead to cubital tunnel syndrome?

Certain sports such as baseball can lead to cubital tunnel syndrome. This is because a pitcher is required to throw and that involves a strong elbow movement.

Can my job lead to cubital tunnel syndrome?

Certain occupations are more prone to ulnar nerve compression due to the nature of tasks completed. Such occupations include bus drivers, assembly line workers, a typists, a shelf stacker, construction worker, or a watchmaker.