The ulnar nerve provides sensation to the little finger and half of the ring finger. It supplies several muscles in the forearm; but most importantly it controls many of the small muscles in the hand responsible for coordinating finger motion and pinch. Patients with this condition commonly exhibit symptoms of intermittent numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers of the affected extremity, and eventually weakness and loss of fine manipulative hand coordination. These symptoms may occur with prolonged flexion of the elbow, or putting resting pressure against the elbow where the nerve passes. There may be an associated aching discomfort along the inner forearm or elbow. If microcirculation of the nerve is compromised by prolonged traction or compression, there can be permanent loss of sensation in the ring and little fingers, and eventually there is loss of pinch and grip strength.
cubital tunnel sensation
Tapping over the ulnar nerve at the cubital tunnel can produce “electric shocks” or tingling (Tinel’s sign) radiating into the ring and little fingers. Bending the elbow may reproduce the aching discomfort about the elbow and forearm, or the tingling in the fingers.
There may be difficulty crossing the middle finger over the index finger. Severe cases will reveal loss of muscle bulk, or wasting, over the little finger aspect of the palm and along the back of the first web space between the thumb and index finger.
Other conditions resembling cubital tunnel syndrome include compression of the nerves in the neck and shoulder area, or compression of the ulnar nerve at the wrist. These conditions can often be excluded by physical examination, however, it may be necessary to obtain special x-rays, vascular tests, or nerve testing to help with the diagnosis.