Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Of Elbow Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- Symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow, like numbness and tingling, can be treated at home for a couple of weeks.
- Treatment often includes avoiding certain activities, wearing a brace or padding to reduce irritating the nerve, and applying ice.
When you may need a provider
- Doing home treatments for about 2 weeks hasn’t helped.
- Your symptoms are severe.
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When to see a healthcare provider
If you think you have ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow (or cubital tunnel syndrome), try to see a doctor soon—within 2 weeks. Common symptoms include weakness or numbness in one hand and pain in the elbow and forearm.
Ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow is usually diagnosed based on a physical exam and tests that may include:
- Nerve conduction test, which checks nerve conduction along the arm
- Electromyogram (EMG), which measures how well the nerve is supplying electrical signals that cause muscle to contract
- X-ray to check for bone spurs or arthritis
What to expect from your doctor visit
- Your provider will likely recommend wearing a supportive brace or splint and adjusting activities to avoid irritating the nerve.
- They may refer you to a physical therapist, who can teach you nerve gliding exercises. These help prevent stiffness and pain in the arm and wrist.
- You may need surgery if the nerve is very compressed or the condition has caused weakness or loss of use of the hand. Surgery can be performed in several ways. These include making the cubital tunnel larger (cubital tunnel release), moving the nerve so it doesn’t get caught on the bone (ulnar nerve anterior transposition), and removing part of a bone in your elbow (medial epicondylectomy).
- After surgery, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to restore strength and motion.
Types of providers for cubital tunnel syndrome
- A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
- If you need surgery, you’ll be referred to an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in treating musculoskeletal conditions.
Treating ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow at home
You should see a healthcare provider to get a diagnosis and treatment plan, but your plan will likely include things you can do at home.
OTC anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can help discomfort caused by ulnar nerve entrapment of the elbow and reduce swelling around the nerve.
Tips for treating cubital tunnel syndrome
- Help the arm heal by resting it.
- Avoid doing activities that make you keep the arm bent for a long time, which can worsen your symptoms.
- Avoid doing anything that puts pressure on your elbow, like leaning or sleeping on it.
- Apply ice packs to the elbow for 15–20 minutes as needed throughout the day to help with pain and swelling.
- Your provider may recommend wearing a brace or splint when sleeping to limit pressure on the nerve.
Wellness and prevention
- Keep your arm strong and flexible by doing strengthening exercises. Your doctor can give you recommendations.
- Warm up before exercising or doing any repetitive movements with your arm.
- Try not to rest your elbows on hard surfaces.