Cubital tunnel syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, in this case, it is the ulnar nerve which is entrapped at the elbow.

Cubital tunnel syndrome: symptoms and diagnosis 

The patient has decreased sensation in the fourth and fifth fingers of the hand. This symptom may be accompanied by pain in the elbow, the inside of the forearm and the hand.
In more advanced forms, the patient suffers from weakness and, more rarely, a loss of dexterity in the fingers.

In the most serious cases, there is muscle atrophy (amyotrophy), which accentuates the hollow between the thumb and the index finger, as well as between the bones on the back of the hand (space between the metacarpals).

A diagnosis is made following a clinical examination. This can be confirmed by an electromyography test (EMG) during which the electric currents associated with muscular activity are recorded. The examination is completed by an ultrasound scan of the elbow.
However, in some cases, complementary examinations may produce normal results, therefore, the diagnosis must based on the patient’s description of the symptoms.

Cubital tunnel syndrome: treatment and progression

Medical treatment

Early forms of the condition can be treated with night splinting which immobilizes the elbow at 60°.


If the symptoms persist, in combination with weakness and pain mainly during the night, surgery may be necessary. The operation takes place under local anaesthetic at a day clinic. The elbow isn’t immobilised during the operation. The scar will be on the inside of the elbow. In some cases, the nerve must be moved from its tunnel to avoid further irritation during flexion/extension of the elbow, or when the ulnar nerve is already outside its normal anatomical position.

After the intervention, the pain disappears rapidly, but there may be a certain sensitivity for some time. It will take longer for patients to recover their strength.

The operated area may remain sensitive for several weeks, especially in patients where the nerve was moved.
In advanced forms of the disease, patients may not fully recover. It is therefore preferable to opt for treatment as early as possible to ensure a successful outcome.