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What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a set of symptoms that may occur if the ulnar nerve in your elbow gets pinched. This may happen if you bend or lean on your elbows often.

Image of ulnar nerve in cubital tunnel

Your cubital tunnel

The cubital tunnel is a groove in a bone near your elbow. This narrow groove provides a passage for the ulnar nerve, one of the main nerves in your arm. The ulnar nerve can cause “funny bone” pain if your elbow gets bumped. Your cubital tunnel helps protect this nerve as it passes through your elbow and down to your fingers.

Compressing the ulnar nerve

Bending your elbow compresses the ulnar nerve inside the cubital tunnel. The nerve can get inflamed (irritated) after constant bending and pinching or after getting hurt. Over time, this can lead to pain or numbness. The pain is often felt in your ring fingers and little fingers.

Image of woman
Bending your elbow as you hold a phone can cause problems over time.

What are its symptoms?

  • Numbness or tingling in the ring fingers and little fingers

  • Loss of finger or hand strength

  • Inability to straighten fingers

  • Sharp, sudden pain when elbow is touched

  • Shrinking of hand muscles

The road to healing

You can keep cubital tunnel syndrome from flaring up. Keep your arm straight as much as you can, even while sleeping, to prevent pinching of the ulnar nerve. And use phone headsets and elbow pads. If you still have pain, tell your doctor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, John, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jasmin, Luc, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2018
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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