Numbness or Tingling in Your Pinky? Could it be Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Continuing on with our nerve theme, this week we’re here to tell you all about cubital tunnel syndrome. In cubital tunnel syndrome, the ulnar nerve is impinged or compressed somewhere along its length and can cause nerve symptoms in your hand. Occasionally you will hear this referred to as ulnar nerve entrapment or ulnar nerve compression. You likely already know about this nerve because its other name is the “Funny Bone.”

As I’m sure you’ve learned over the years it’s not actually a bone, it’s your ulnar nerve! Your ulnar nerve travels down the inside of your upper arm, along the inside of your elbow (where we typically whack it). It continues down through the wrist to power hand muscles and provide sensation to your ring and little fingers. For a great image and more details about cubital tunnel, check out this link.

“Weird Feelings” or Numbness in Your Fingers

The usual culprit of cubital tunnel is compression of the nerve at the elbow. This is where the nerve is most vulnerable. Any activities causing you to keep your elbows bent for sustained period, leaning on your elbows for prolonged periods, or sleeping with your elbows bent can cause symptoms. Typically you feel numbness and tingling or just a “weird feeling” in your ring finger and pinky.

Treatment for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Quick Tips for Cubital Tunnel:

Wear an elbow pad (Heel-Bo) during the day to keep pressure off the nerve.

Sleep with your elbow straight. You can try wrapping a towel around your elbow and tape it in place.

Avoid leaning on your elbow, especially at your desk or in the car (nerves don’t like the vibration of the car!)

Nerve Glides for Ulnar Nerve

Once your symptoms start to subside, you can try some nerve glides. Check out Laura’s video below. You do not want these to make symptoms worse, so if you try them and you get any symptoms, stop. Nerve glides should not be painful or increase symptoms. You may have to let your nerve rest before you are able to complete them.

If unable to control the symptoms on your own, you may need therapy. If you’re unsure it’s actually your ulnar nerve, a doctor can perform a nerve conduction study which will identify which nerve or nerves is causing your symptoms.

 

Julie Williford MOT, OTR/L, CPAM

Disclaimer: We realize that we cannot anticipate every medical situation that a patient may be in, therefore this blog and our website are not substitutes for formal medical advice or the advice of your physician. It is intended for informational purposes only. LB Hand Therapy disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based upon this information. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.