Treating the "Unknown" Syndrome By Jeff Anliker





Do you suffer from pain on the posterior, medial-side of the elbow along with numbness, tingling and paresthesia in your ring and little finger?  If so, you could be one of millions that suffer from Cubital Tunnel Syndrome; or what I like to call the “unknown syndrome”.  

Why do I call it the unknown syndrome? Because you hear little about it in the media and doctors are constantly misdiagnosing Cubital Tunnel, often as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition that does not mimic the symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome in any way and involves a completely different nerve.  The reason I am so surprised by its constant misdiagnosis or being completely bypassed by physicians, is because it has become increasingly prevalent in society as the use of social media devices has dramatically risen during the past 10-years, therefore it has been presented more frequently to physicians and the symptomology would be easily recognized.  But it isn’t.

For some reason, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has received all of the media attention although there are a number of repetitive strain injuries like Cubital Tunnel that affect millions of people, yet are virtually unknown. With a little effort by the media and healthcare professionals, repetitive strain injuries like Cubital Tunnel Syndrome can be recognized and treated instead of misdiagnosed or completely missed by the treating physician.

What is Cubital tunnel Syndrome? Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is the compression of the ulnar nerve within the Cubital tunnel at the elbow joint.

What are the Symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?  The symptoms include paresthesia (pins and needles) and pain on the posterior, medial side of the elbow joint and numbness and tingling affecting the ring and little fingers.

How did I get Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?  In most cases, the disorder is caused by a muscle imbalance due to extremely short, tight flexor muscles at their origin where they attach to the medial epicondyle, to about 3-inches below the elbow on the anterior, medial side of the elbow joint.  The overuse and resulting hypertonicity of the muscles that flex the elbow and allow pronation and ulnar deviation of the wrist are also to blame for the onset of this painful disorder.

How do these muscles get out of balance? As mentioned above, it is the overuse of the muscles that flex the elbow and provide finger and wrist flexion, ulnar deviation and pronation of the wrist resulting from involvement in activities that demand excessive gripping, squeezing and rotation. 

The stronger these muscles get, the shorter and tighter they become in comparison to their antagonist muscle counterparts, or opposing muscle groups.  And when one muscle group is much more powerful than its antagonist, the elbow joint becomes misaligned.  And it is this misalignment of the humeroulnar joint that causes the ulnar nerve to be compressed within the small, confined space of the Cubital tunnel.

Can Cubital Tunnel Syndrome be corrected?  Yes.  If the muscle imbalance is corrected, the elbow joint realigns and the compression of the ulnar nerve within the Cubital tunnel is eliminated.  

How do I correct the muscle imbalance?  Through several simple stretches and exercises that focus on lengthening the finger, wrist and elbow flexors, wrist pronators and ulnar deviators, as well as strengthening and shortening the finger, wrist and elbow extensors, supinators and radial deviators, the muscle imbalance is corrected and the symptoms eliminated.  It is simply stretching what is strong and tight and strengthening what is long and weak.

In summary, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome can be corrected, in most cases, without invasive techniques like cortisone injections or surgery, both of which have a poor success rate in both short and long-term treatments.  In stark contrast to cortisone and surgery, non-invasive treatments that implement the appropriate stretches and exercises work to completely eliminate the muscle imbalance at the elbow joint, thus correcting the mis-alignment and the underlying cause of Cubital tunnel syndrome.  

Jeff P. Anliker, LMT, is a therapist and inventor of products that are used by physicians, professional musicians and athletes around the world to prevent and treat disorders like cubital tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries.