Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve or funny bone nerve is stretched, compressed, or irritated where it crosses the elbow. Exercises can help, but not all medical professionals agree on what exercises improve symptoms.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include:

  • numbness or tingling in the fingers, especially the ring and pinky fingers
  • pain or soreness along the forearm
  • weakness or soreness in the hand

The ulnar nerve extends from the neck down the back of the arm to the hand. In the inner aspect of the elbow, it runs along a small passageway called the cubital tunnel.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs at the elbow and is also known as ulnar neuropathy.

man with cubital tunnel syndromeShare on Pinterest
Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by irritation or compression of the ulnar nerve.

There is no consensus on this question. Some health experts believe certain exercises that encourage the ulnar nerve to glide gently through the cubital and Guyon's canals may improve symptoms.

The cubital canal is the small channel that the ulnar nerve runs through along the inside of the elbow. Guyon's canal is where the ulnar nerve runs into the hand through the wrist.

Examples of nerve gliding exercises include:

Exercise 1

1. Extend the arm straight out in front of the body with a straightened elbow, as much as is comfortable, with the palm facing up.

2. Slowly and gently curl the fingers towards the palms then slowly and gently bend them down, away from the body.

3. Slowly and gently bend the elbow, as much as is comfortable, and then slowly release back.

Exercise 2

1. Extend the arm straight out in front of the body with a straightened elbow, as much as is comfortable, with the palm facing up.

2. Slowly and gently begin to bend the elbow towards the body while at the same time gently twisting the wrist backward, away from the body.

3. If steps 1 and 2 are comfortable, then keeping the wrist bent back, slowly and gently bend the elbow, as much as is comfortable, then slowly release it.

Exercise 3

1. Stand, sit, or lie down and extend the arm out straight alongside the body with a slightly clenched fist.

2. Slowly and gently bend the elbow, bringing the fist towards the body, as far as comfortable, and then slowly release.

Exercise 4

1. Stand with the elbow bent so that the forearm runs parallel to the body.

2. Slowly and gently twist the palms upwards to face the ceiling and then downwards to face the floor.

Rigid nighttime bracing of the arm to keep it in a fixed position, together with moderating activity patterns, has been shown to help cubital tunnel syndrome.

A 2014 study found that wearing a rigid elbow brace at night for 3 months, and avoiding activities that could irritate the ulnar nerve during the day, resolved symptoms in 21 of the 24 cases included in the study.

Surgery

People whose symptoms are severe or last longer than 6 weeks should consult their doctor.

If symptoms are extreme, chronic, or do not respond to other forms of treatment, then surgery may be necessary.

Doctors may recommend surgery for people experiencing muscle loss or weakness in their hands because of cubital tunnel syndrome.

During surgery, a surgeon will expose the irritated, compressed, or stretched ulnar nerve and either release it, move it, or remove part of it.

It may take weeks to months to fully recover from surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome, and most people require physical therapy afterward.

In severe cases, people may continue to experience symptoms even after surgery. However, about 85 percent of people with severe nerve compression who do not respond well to other treatment options may benefit from cubital tunnel surgery.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when there is pressure or strain on the ulnar nerve, also known as the funny bone nerve. Symptoms often include numbness, soreness, and weakness.

Treatment may be possible with home remedies and OTC medication, or surgery may be necessary. People with symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome should consult their doctor if they persist for more than a few weeks.