Cubital Tunnel – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Do you often wake with your little finger and ring finger numb? Do you find after a long session of desk work your little finger and ring finger feel painful? You may have Cubital Tunnel syndrome.

Cubital tunnel or “Ulnar nerve neuritis” basically means an inflammation of the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve can be compressed in a variety of different locations in the arm. Using the expertise of a hand therapist they can help establish where the compression may be and strategies to help alleviate your symptoms.

Common symptoms may be:

  • Altered sensation in the little finger and ring finger
  • Pain in and around the elbow
  • Weakness or clumsiness in the hand

It can be caused by several different reasons

  • A history of arthritis
  • Prolonged elbow flexion
  • Muscle tightness or ligament tightness
  • Swelling: caused by injury, lymphedema, or pregnancy.

What can be done?

Initially a hand therapist will assess your symptoms and help to resolve the compression with a variety of techniques such as:

  • Splinting elbow in a neutral position (soft bend in elbow –45 degrees) to avoid stretching the nerve TIP: try sleeping with a towel wrapped around your elbow, this may help alleviate your symptoms initially. 
  • Desensitization to help regulate or decrease, the body’s response to particular sensations.
  • Activity modification – is very important to identify aggravating tasks and your therapist will provide strategies to avoid them.
  • Avoid putting pressure on your elbow – using a soft pad or pillow underneath can help alleviate some of your symptoms
  • A home exercise program consisting of gradual strengthening or the muscles surrounding the elbow and muscles of the hand.
Night elbow cubital tunnel brace
Night elbow cubital tunnel brace

When will I start to see results?

There is a 90% success rate of patients resolving in 2-3 months. It is important to note, the longer you have had your symptoms the longer you should expect your recovery to take.

What if I don’t get better?

Based on your symptoms and success of hand therapy, a surgical intervention may be required. Your hand therapist will guide you through the process and be able to answer any questions you may have.


This nerve runs along what is commonly known as the Funny bone- that funny feeling you feel down the side of your arm when you hit your funny bone – that’s your Ulna Nerve!!

No! this isn’t the same as carpal tunnel – both have different presentation with completely different therapies – ask your hand therapist how?

It is the second most common nerve entrapment in the upper limb.

Written by: Stephanie Flaherty – Physiotherapist