Nerve decompression for cubital tunnel release

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve at the elbow becomes compressed or irritated. Increased pressure disturbs the way the nerve works, causing numbness or pain in the elbow, hand, wrist or fingers. Surgery by an orthopedic surgeon can help reduce the symptoms.

Decompression releases the structures putting pressure on the nerve, allowing its function to recover over time.


The ulnar nerve passes across the back of the elbow, behind the medial epicondyle on the inner side of the upper arm bone. The spot where the corner of the ulnar nerve makes a bend around the elbow is commonly called the “funny bone.” Hitting the elbow at this spot gives a brief feeling of shock or tingling.

When is surgery recommended?

Mild cases of cubital tunnel syndrome often respond to non-operative treatments such as wearing an elbow pad to protect the elbow during the day; wearing a splint to keep the elbow straight at night; and physical therapy to learn how to avoid putting pressure on the ulnar nerve.

If these conservative measures fail to alleviate symptoms, surgery may be necessary.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery varies by patient. There are usually restrictions on lifting and elbow movement, and most patients undergo physical therapy to rebuild strength in the hand and wrist. Although numbness may quickly improve, full functional recovery may take several months. In severe cases, surgery may not completely resolve cubital tunnel symptoms.

Physicians who perform nerve decompression

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