Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Occupational Therapy

This article will discuss what cubital tunnel syndrome is, its causes, and when to seek medical attention. Additionally, we’ll discuss how occupational therapy can be an effective treatment for managing this condition.

Whether you’re looking for non-surgical treatment options or preparing for surgery, occupational therapy can make a significant difference in your quality of life. If you’re in the Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia area, schedule an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow for expert care and personalized treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome.

A patient having occupational therapy session for cubital tunnel syndrome.

What is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome happens when the ulnar nerve, which runs from your neck to your hand, gets compressed or irritated as it passes through a tunnel of muscle, ligament, and bone on the inside of your elbow. You might hear it called the “funny bone” because hitting your elbow just right can cause a funny feeling in your arm and hand.

This syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome but affects a different nerve. It can cause numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand and fingers, especially the pinky and ring fingers. Sometimes, it can even lead to a weakened grip.

What Causes Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve as it passes through a tunnel of tissue in your elbow. This pressure on the nerve can happen for different reasons. 

Sometimes, it’s because of repetitive activities that bend the elbow, like typing or using tools. it can also be caused by leaning on your elbow for long periods or keeping your elbow bent while sleeping. Also, the nerve can be damaged by a direct hit or bruise to the inside of the elbow.

When the ulnar nerve is squeezed or irritated in this way, it can lead to a condition called ulnar neuropathy. This can result in symptoms like numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand and fingers, especially in the pinky and ring fingers.

When Should I See a Healthcare Provider?

You should consider seeing a healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome, such as tingling, numbness, or weakness in your hand and fingers, especially in your pinky and ring fingers. These symptoms may come and go at first, but if they persist or worsen over time, it’s essential to seek medical advice.

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and examine your arm and hand. They may also perform special tests, like a nerve conduction test, to see how well your nerves are working.

It’s essential to see a healthcare provider early because early treatment can prevent the condition from getting worse. If left untreated, cubital tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage.

How Can Occupational Therapy Help with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Occupational therapy plays a crucial role in managing cubital tunnel syndrome and reducing its symptoms. Here’s how occupational therapy can help:

  1. Exercises and stretches: An occupational therapist can teach you specific exercises and stretches designed to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve. These exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce pain. One common type of exercise is called “nerve gliding exercises,” which help the ulnar nerve move more smoothly as you bend and straighten your elbow.
  2. Ergonomic advice: Your occupational therapist can provide you with ergonomic advice to help you modify your work or daily activities. They may suggest changes to your workstation or tools to reduce strain on your elbow and prevent symptoms from worsening. For example, they might recommend using a padded elbow brace to keep your elbow straight and avoid putting pressure on the ulnar nerve.
  3. Patient education: Understanding how to manage your symptoms is essential. Your occupational therapist will educate you about cubital tunnel syndrome and teach you techniques to prevent symptoms from getting worse. They’ll show you how to keep your elbow straight when sleeping or using electronic devices and provide guidance on when to take breaks to rest your arm.
  4. Pre- and post-surgery rehabilitation: If surgery is necessary, occupational therapy is often recommended before and after the procedure. Before surgery, occupational therapy can help prepare your arm and hand for the operation. After surgery, occupational therapy can assist with regaining strength and mobility. Surgical options for cubital tunnel syndrome may include ulnar nerve transposition or cubital tunnel release, which involves freeing the nerve from its compressed position.
 

Overall, occupational therapy can significantly improve your quality of life by reducing pain, improving function, and helping you manage cubital tunnel syndrome effectively.

Occupational Therapy Can Make a Difference

If you’re experiencing symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome, occupational therapy can be a game-changer. By working with an occupational therapist, you can learn exercises and stretches to relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve, receive ergonomic advice to prevent symptoms from worsening, and gain valuable patient education on managing your condition. 

Whether you’re preparing for surgery or looking for non-surgical treatment options, occupational therapy can help you regain strength, reduce pain, and improve function in your arm and hand. If you’re in the Marietta or Atlanta, Georgia area, schedule an appointment with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow for expert care and personalized treatment to help you find relief from cubital tunnel syndrome.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Randall Alexander

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