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Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow

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Last updated November 5, 2021

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What is an ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow?

Ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow is also called cubital tunnel syndrome. The ulnar nerve begins at the spinal cord in the neck and runs down the arm into the hand. This very long nerve can become compressed, or entrapped, by other structures at certain points along the way.

Entrapment often happens in the cubital tunnel, which is the narrow passage at the inside of the elbow.

The exact cause for entrapment is not always known. Fluid buildup and swelling inside the elbow; previous elbow fracture or dislocation; or leaning on the elbow for long periods of time can put pressure on the ulnar nerve inside the cubital tunnel.

Rarity: Common

Symptoms

Symptoms include numbness and tingling of the hand and fingers, sometimes leading to weakness and even muscle wasting in the hand. Symptoms typically last for months and can linger.

Top symptoms

Treatment

You should see a doctor in the next 2 weeks to discuss your symptoms. Your doctor will examine you and may also conduct a blood test and a test that checks the connection between muscles and nerves (nerve conduction test).

Treatment begins with wearing a supportive brace and adjusting activities to avoid irritating the nerve. Surgery is usually not needed unless the nerve compression is causing weakness and loss of use in the hand.

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