If You Have Intense Elbow Pain, It Could Be Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

No, it isn’t an autocorrect mistake. Although carpal tunnel syndrome is better known, CTS, too, can cause bothersome symptoms in your arms and hands. It’s less commonly diagnosed than carpal tunnel, but research shows that it’s also under-diagnosed, partly because a good number of people fail to seek diagnosis or treatment. If you’re experiencing intense elbow pain, CTS could be the culprit.

If you think you may have cubital tunnel syndrome, contact our experts at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery.

Some basics

Also known as ulnar neuropathy, cubital tunnel syndrome happens when nerve compression increases pressure in a particular area, such as your wrist, arm, or elbow. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty gripping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Severe pain
  • Weakened fingers
  • Tingling

In severe cases that are left untreated, cubital tunnel syndrome can lead to claw-like hand deformity.

Cubital tunnel syndrome causes

Most anyone can develop cubital tunnel syndrome, but it’s more likely if you:

  • Engage in activities, such as baseball pitching, that may increase pressure on the affected nerve
  • Frequently bend your elbow for lengthy time periods, such as when you sleep with your hand under your pillow or you talk on the phone
  • Have an abnormal bone growth in the elbow
  • Tend to lean on your elbow, particularly on a hard surface


If you show signs of cubital tunnel syndrome, your doctor may be able to diagnose it through a physical exam. They may also order an electromyography — which uses electrodes to measure the health of your nerve cells and muscles — to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of your condition.


Once you’re diagnosed, there are numerous treatment options that can help do away with your severe elbow pain and other symptoms. If you have minimal pressure on the nerve, conservative treatments should work. These include:

  • Avoiding putting undue pressure on the elbow
  • Wearing a protective elbow pad during daily activity
  • Wearing an elbow splint while you sleep, to prevent over-bending

More severe cases of cubital tunnel syndrome may require surgery to reposition the affected nerve, shave off a small amount of bone, or divide a ligament for improved function. Recovery from the procedure may involve restrictions on elbow movements, as well as rehabilitation therapy. Within several months, you should regain full wrist and hand strength.

To find out if you have cubital tunnel syndrome and how we can help, call Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery today or request an appointment on our website.

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