The cubital tunnel is the area between the medial epicondyle and the olecranon; this is the inside part of your elbow. The ulnar nerve travels through this tunnel. With cubital tunnel syndrome the ulnar nerve is inflamed and compressed in the tunnel.
This compression results in tingles, pins and needles or numbness in the little finger and half of the ring finger. There can also be pain in the little finger side of the wrist and forearm and the tingles can extend into the palm.
The nerve gets compressed in two main ways:
- Bending the elbow more than 90°
- Applying external pressure over the cubital tunnel
We do these things without even realising it!
- Reading a book in bed
- Texting or playing with our phones
- Leaning on arm rests
- Resting our head in our hands
So how do we fix it?
Firstly we have to stop squashing the nerve! The biggest part of this is activity modification. You don't have to stop doing things, just change how you do them so you don't squash the nerve.
No more leaning on your elbows, no more sustained elbow bending.
- When you are talking on the phone, change hands frequently, or better yet, use a hands free device!
- At your desk make sure your workstation is set up correctly so you are not reaching for your keyboard, not leaning on the desk, and not leaning on the arm rests
- When you are sleeping, keep your arms out straight. This is very tricky to do as we don't know what we are doing in our sleep! Sometimes the best way to do this is to wear a brace on your elbow at night that will hold your arm out straight. This also gives the nerve a nice solid period of time to heal.
Nerves take time to heal and these concepts are things you will need to commit to for the long haul! The good news is, the nerve will start to heal itself as soon as you stop squashing it and you will start to feel better!