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Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: the basics

By PeekMed on September, 21 2016

The cubital tunnel syndrome is quite familiar with something you may know as carpal tunnel syndrome. These two syndromes do share some things but it’s important to know how to distinguish them.

If the patient is diagnosed with cubital tunnel syndrome it’s important to inform them properly on the topic so it helps them further as well.

The cubital tunnel syndrome is a medical condition considered by an entrapment of pinching the nerves in the elbow’s area . The ulnar nerve is entrapped in the cubital tunnel and problems related with this type of syndrome will appear specially in the little finger area and in the half of the ring finger, as these are the fingers that the nerve communicates the most.

The most common causes for this condition to develop are leaning on the elbow on a regular basis, especially on a hard surface or bending the elbow for a long period of time, such as while talking on the phone or sleeping with the hand under the pillow. There’s also some exceptions, such as an abnormal growth of bone in the elbow or due to extreme physical activities that put increased pressure on the ulnar nerve.

According to a review posted on the Postgraduate Medical Journal written by Steven Cutts, this syndrome “is the second most common peripheral nerve entrapment” right next to carpal tunnel. It can cause pain, numbness and muscle weakness, which in extreme cases can lead to the total dysfunction of the hand.

On this review was also referenced that patients diagnosed with diabetes are most likely to suffer from cubital tunnel syndrome, since one of the mechanisms that has been implicated in this condition is the compression of the nerve and diabetes only makes the nerve more vulnerable to it.

A surgical intervention on these cases is hardly necessary, but there’s always extraordinary cases. All surgical procedures carry a lot of risks and discussion about either or not to perform a surgery is important, and this case is no exception.

The surgical procedure on this type of injuries, needs to be extra careful because it takes a lot of precision. It involves incising over the cubital tunnel, to release the surrounding retinacular fibers and if damage occurs on a small branch of the nerves, it may lead to a painful neuroma.

This surgery only happens on extreme cases and the percentage of successful cases after this procedure are disappointing, resulting on patients around the age of 50 to do particularly badly.

No one knows exactly how to prevent cubital tunnel syndrome but there’s some precautions that can be taken, such as a healthier lifestyle; individuals who work in careers that require holding their elbow in a bent position should change positions occasionally in order to prevent too much stress on the ulnar nerve and taking care of diabetes. It may cause some trouble in employment but these modifications can provide a better response to the cubital tunnel syndrome without surgery.

Image source: Chronic Body Pain

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