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BellaOnline's Ergonomics Editor

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome - Carpal Tunnel's Counterpart

Everyone now knows about carpal tunnel syndrome. The term has become a mainstream name. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most commonly occurring nerve compression of the upper extremity. It can cause numbness in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and partially in the ring finger. It can cause weakness in the muscles at the base of the thumb and cause pain that radiates up the arm into the shoulder and neck. Like the older sibling who gets blamed for all wrong-doing, carpal tunnel syndrome has become synonymous with all hand pain.

Lurking in the shadow of carpal tunnel syndrome's fame is its counterpart, cubital tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most commonly occurring nerve compression of the upper extremity. It is caused by the ulnar nerve becoming pinched at the elbow. When you hit your "funny bone", you are actually hitting this nerve. The ulnar nerve is responsible for sensation in the small finger and partially in the ring finger. Trauma to the ulnar nerve can cause pain in the small finger side of the hand that radiates into the forearm towards the inside of the elbow. It can cause weakness to the small muscles in the hand and, if severe, loss of coordination.

It is time to bring cubital tunnel syndrome out from behind carpal tunnel syndrome's shadow and into the light. If diagnosed correctly, there are simple modifications that can be made to help relieve the symptoms of this frequently overlooked nerve compression.

The ulnar nerve runs from the side of the neck, into the armpit, down the arm, through a groove on the inside aspect of the elbow, into the forearm, and into the hand through a small tunnel adjacent to the carpal tunnel (Guyon's canal). In addition to being vulnerable to forces at the elbow, the nerve is vulnerable at the level of the wrist. The following activities can cause an irritation of the ulnar nerve at the wrist:
Here are a few more tips to protect the nerve at the wrist.
As with other injuries, it is important to:

For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.


The Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard positions the wrist in a neutral position. An added bonus - it has a detachable support that allows you to angle the keyboard in a negative tilt (or reverse slope) which can ease strain in the wrists and forearms.
Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

The Evoluent Vertical Mouse fits comfortable in the hand and reduces forearm stress by placing the arm in a more neutral rotation.
Evoluent VerticalMouse 2 - Optical Computer Mouse

These Fox cycling gloves have gel padding in the palm and fingers for protection and comfort.
2006 Fox Reflex Gel Cycling Glove

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