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Numbness in Ring and Pinky Fingers? Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

If you’re experiencing numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your ring or pinky fingers you might wonder if you’ve somehow injured your hand or fingers without realizing it. While not necessarily painful, any kind of persistent numbness is certainly alarming. In many cases, numbness or tingling in one or both of these fingers is a condition known as cubital tunnel syndrome.

What Is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Cubital tunnel syndrome, also known as “ulnar nerve entrapment,” is a condition in which the ulnar nerve, which is responsible for that tingling “funny bone” sensation, becomes irritated, compressed, stressed, or otherwise disturbed. This can result in numbness, tingling, grip loss, pain or weakness. Some patients may describe their ring and small fingers as feeling like they are on “pins and needles.”

These symptoms may appear if the elbow is bent for a prolonged period. For example, you may experience these symptoms at night if you sleep with your elbow bent, or if you’re holding a phone or working at a desk in a position that causes your elbow to stay in a bent position.

Diagnosing Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Your physician may diagnose cubital tunnel syndrome by doing a physical exam, inquiring about your symptoms, and performing some nerve tests. The physician may need to check for pinched nerves and/or rule out other medical conditions, such as diabetes and thyroid disease, which can cause symptoms similar to cubital tunnel syndrome.

Treating Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

If your physician diagnoses you with cubital tunnel syndrome, you may be prescribed non-surgical therapies such as splinting or cushioning the elbow, which helps avoid nerve pressure. In some cases, surgery may be necessary, which would result in a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. During surgery, the nerve may be moved or released. Sometimes surgeons remove some small portions of the bone in order to allow the nerve more room.

Does Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Surgery Work?

Some patients find quick relief following their surgery and recovery, while other patients do not have their symptoms resolve until months after the procedure. Your physician and orthopedic surgeon may be able to provide you with a more specific and informed prognosis based on your diagnosis and medical history. Surgery results cannot be guaranteed. In cases where symptoms are severe, surgery may not be effective in fully resolving the numbness and tingling.

Schedule With a Houston Orthopedic Surgeon

For more information about your cubital tunnel syndrome surgery options in Houston, call Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics at (713) 756-5546.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.