Cubital Tunnel Release
By Diana Cratem, CHT/OT
What is Cubital Tunnel Release?
Cubital Tunnel Release is a surgical procedure performed to alleviate pressure/irritation of the ulnar nerve as it travels through the elbow. Often times patients experience irritation of this nerve due to entrapment or repetitive stretching. Anatomically the ulnar nerve travels down the upper arm, wraps around the medial part of the elbow and enters the forearm. Due to little padding in the elbow area, the nerve often times gets compressed and/or stretched causing irritation. Problems can arise from a one time trauma to the elbow or from repetitive stretching of the nerve over time.
The nerve irritation can lead to sensations of numbness or tingling in the arm or hand. Often it results in pain. Cubital tunnel problems are often identified by an orthopedic doctor during an office examination. Sometimes nerve conduction tests are performed to quantify how much nerve compression is involved.
Treatment to protect the nerve initially may involve the use of a pad to the elbow to avoid full elbow flexion with daily activities. Sometimes surgery is required to the cubital tunnel to relieve the pressure on the nerve. This is called a Cubital Tunnel Release. Sometimes the nerve is moved or repositioned to a more protected area of the elbow to avoid continued irritation of the nerve.
A simple Cubital Tunnel Release consists of incising the cubital tunnel at the elbow thus eliminating the restriction or pressure that was irritating the nerve. Recovery from this procedure usually includes edema control, range of motion exercises, and eventually strengthening of the muscles in elbow, wrist and hand.