What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Cubital tunnel syndrome causes pain and numbness in the patient in a similar manner to other syndromes that put pressure on the nerves. Chiropractic and massage care can be helpful treatment options that are available for this condition.
While carpal tunnel syndrome is a more well-known condition, both the radial tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes share some similarities with the former. The onset of carpal tunnel syndrome in the patient happens when there is unnatural pressure put on the median nerve of the wrist. Similarly, radial tunnel syndrome is when there is excessive pressure on the radial nerve. Meanwhile, cubital tunnel occurs due to too much pressure being put on the ulnar nerve. With cubital tunnel syndrome, there are symptoms like muscle weakness, pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and hands. It is a nerve compression syndrome, also called “ulnar neuropathy”.
When the ulnar nerve, which is around the area often known as the “funny bone”, might at times be put under too much pressure. Examples of this would be like when the patient leans on their elbow or bends the elbow for too long, regularly engages in certain locally forceful physical activities, such as pitching in baseball and playing guitar, or even the presence of abnormal elbow bone growth. The patient can, due to this aggravation and compression, experience a sensation of tingling in the ring and pinky fingers, as well as an onset of elbow pain and numbness. In severe cases, there can be weakness in the outer fingers, decreased handgrip strength and a loss in ability to pinch, muscle wasting, or a “claw-like deformity”.1
A doctor could be able to diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome by using EMG or other methods of physical examination. Conservative treatment options include changing how the elbow is used. Patients can learn not to put their elbows on hard surfaces, or they may even wear an elbow pad. Some patients may have to wear a splint at night in order to consistently keep their elbow straight.
In severe cases, or if the symptoms do not subside within an expected period of time, some doctors will recommend surgery to treat the ongoing condition. In surgery, the doctor may, depending on the patient and their physical state, shift the nerve so that it is to the front of the elbow. The nerve may be placed under or within the muscle, or under a layer of fat. Surgeons may trim the bony bump on the inner elbow, what is known as the “medial epicondyle”. After surgery, patients will need to take care to restrict movement as told and receive therapy to aid in the recovery process. Recovery from the surgery may take months. And, unfortunately, surgery still holds no guarantees of resolving the cubital tunnel syndrome permanently.2
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Chiropractic Care
Cubital tunnel syndrome, a condition which is also placed, in the category of entrapment neuropathy, as the second most common, can respond to conservative care. Many patients get this disorder from work-related issues. Working at computers, a state where the elbows are constantly on a hard surface, and truck driving, during which the elbows flexed for too long, are two such examples of cases where the disorder might develop due to regular work. Other people who may get cubital tunnel syndrome are those who also already suffer from osteoarthritis, which can cause what might be known as a “bony overgrowth”. In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation can impact the ulnar nerve.3
Chiropractors can help patients by teaching them proper movements and exercises. It is not uncommon for many patients to unintentionally further aggravate their own problematic physical conditions due to ignorance of the effects of their own actions. One example of this would be the engagement of improper posture during activities with long durations, like walking or sitting. Patients also need to remind themselves to regularly get up and move around and stretch if they have been performing a mostly sedentary activity for too long. A chiropractor may recommend taking these frequent breaks, stretching and performing self-massage, making sure that the patient has proper alignment of the shoulders, neck, and elbows, and suggesting weight training, proper nutrition, and supplements. Patients need to become more aware of their own bodies and how even seemingly regular positions and actions may actually have a harmful impact.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Massage
Massage therapists can also help relieve the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome. Massage can flush out toxins and relax the muscles. Chiropractors and massage therapists work together and recommend each other’s treatments to their patients in order to build a treatment regime with the most possible alternative care assets available and at the patient’s disposal.4 Compression of the nerves can be improved and alleviated through the application of techniques such as the deep stripping method performed on the flexor carpi ulnaris.5
Learn more about radial tunnel and carpal tunnel syndromes and treatments.