Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Numbness and tingling sensation from elbow to ring and little finger

What is cubital tunnel syndrome?

Also known as ulnar neuritis, cubital tunnel syndrome is when the ulnar nerve found on the inside of an elbow is inflamed, swollen or injured.

The occurrence of cubital tunnel syndrome indicates that the ulnar nerve is impinged or compressed.

cubital tunnel syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs due to inflammation of the ulnar nerve.

What causes cubital tunnel syndrome?

The manifestation of cubital tunnel syndrome can be attributed to a few causes:

  • Repetitive motion: such as bending the elbow with weighted objects in the gym or at work.
  • Prior injuries: fractures and dislocation at the elbow could also be contributing factors.

What are the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome come with some glaring symptoms such as:

  • Numbness and tingling sensation running down from the elbow to the ring and little finger
  • Weakness in the hand and clumsiness when gripping objects
  • Pain and discomfort of the affected arm
wrist pain
Wrist pain, numbness, and tingling are all symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome. 
If you notice any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.

Is cubital tunnel syndrome painful?

Most individuals with cubital tunnel syndrome have reported excruciating pain or discomfort.

However, the level of pain may be masked if you are consuming NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). If the condition is painless and patients face loss of sensation, treatment must be administered immediately. 

Who is at risk of cubital tunnel syndrome in Singapore?

There are some patterns of occurrence of cubital tunnel syndrome.

Some factors increasing the risk of the condition include:

  • Desk job workers: an increase in the incidence of cubital tunnel syndrome has been observed in conjunction with the steady increase of desk job employees. Attributed to the lack of ergonomic work setup, cubital tunnel syndrome occurs among those who lean on their elbow during work. 
  • Manual workers: jobs that require the usage of tools with protracted periods of elbow flexion
  • Health condition: individuals with osteoarthritis and arthritis are prone to cubital tunnel syndrome. Additionally, patients diagnosed with diabetes mellitus and obesity are also prone to cubital tunnel syndrome. 

How is cubital tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

There is a sequential process in diagnosing cubital tunnel syndrome. 

Below are some examination and potential diagnostic tests that will be ordered:

  • Physical examination and medical history: an elbow flexion test will be conducted during your physical examination on top of an investigation of your medical and lifestyle history. 
  • Nerve conduction test: conducted to investigate the receptivity of nerve signals and to identify if any alteration of sensation has occurred.
  • Electromyography (EMG): an EMG is often prescribed and would be necessary if an incidence of impinged nerves is suspected.
  • X-ray: if your orthopaedist suspects there may be an incidence of fracture or presentation of arthritis or osteoarthritis, you would be advised to undergo an x-ray
  • Blood tests: blood tests would also be requested if patients are suspected of undiagnosed diabetes.
An electromyography test is often conducted to diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome.

What are the treatment options for cubital tunnel syndrome in Singapore?

  • Splint/sling: you may be advised to wear a splint or a sling while asleep to promote healing in the affected area. 
  • Physiotherapy: physiotherapy involving gentle and therapeutic exercises will be advised upon recovery to improve range of motion and recover mobility which would also include hand therapy. 
  • Medication: oral medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and painkillers are commonly prescribed as the first course of treatment to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. 
  • Injections: bursa or corticosteroid injections are quick-fix solutions that help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain immediately. It will be injected directly at the elbow. 
  • Surgery: if deemed critical, surgery would be advised. There are three types of surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome; cubital tunnel release, ulnar nerve anterior transposition, or medial epicondylectomy. Depending on the condition and severity, the appropriate surgery will be administered with the intention of relieving the impinged ulnar nerve. 
Frequently asked questions
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Feeling aches and pains?

Book a consultation with us for a more comprehensive diagnosis and a personalised treatment plan best suited to your needs.

Feeling aches and pains?

Book a consultation with us for a more comprehensive diagnosis and a personalised treatment plan best suited to your needs. What are you experiencing now?

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For emergency appointment, please call or Whatsapp us at (65) 8909 8877. We will arrange for a limousine to send you to our clinic.
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