Cubital tunnel syndrome is a set of symptoms caused by abnormal pressure on the ulnar nerve. The nerve passes through the cubital tunnel on the inside of the elbow. Problems with this nerve can cause a weak hand grip and numbness in the ring and small finger.
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This problem is caused by pressure of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. The cause is not always known. In some people, it may be from:
Things that can raise the chance of this problem are:
Symptoms may happen all the time or only when the elbow is bent. They may be:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A diagnosis can usually be made based on your symptoms.
It may be confirmed with these tests:
This problem often goes away on its own. Activities that are causing the problem may need to be stopped. Other steps may be:
Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. The goal of surgery is to ease compression and bring back nerve function and muscle strength. Choices are:
There are no guidelines to prevent this problem.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Miller TT, Reinus WR. Nerve entrapment syndromes of the elbow, forearm, and wrist. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2010 Sep;195(3):585.
Osei DA, Groves AP, et al. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: Incidence and Demographics in a National Administrative Database. Neurosurg. 2017; 80:417-420.
Trehan SK, Parziale JR. Cubital tunnel syndrome: Diagnosis and management. Med Health R I. 2012;95(11):349-352.
Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated September 2015. Accessed December 3, 2019.
Ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ulnar-nerve-entrapment-of-elbow. Updated June 1, 2017. Accessed December 3, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 5/6/2020