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Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Braces?

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is the name given to a condition where the ulnar nerve that travels down the arm becomes irritated by being compressed or stretched.

The ulnar nerve begins in the neck and ends at the little finger side of the hand. As it passes through the elbow joint it travels through a narrow tunnel (the cubital tunnel) under the bo ny bump on the inside of the elbow. The bump is the medial epicondyle, otherwise known as the funny bone. At this point the nerve, in the cubital tunnel, is very close to the skin and has little soft tissue for protection. Although the nerve can become compressed or irritated at any point along its length, it is most likely to happen as it passes through the cubital tunnel at the elbow, and is often caused by a prolonged stretching of the nerve (when the elbow is fully bent) or pressure on the nerve.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include pain, swelling, tingling or numbness in the ring and little fingers, and weakness of the hand. Bending the elbow exacerbates the symptoms, and people who sleep with their elbows bent or their arms up by their head can find that the problem persists or worsens.

Wearing a brace that restricts movement of the elbow while the nerve heals can be extremely beneficial. For severe cases, the brace can initially be worn at all times, and as painful symptoms lessen, just at night. Please follow your medical practitioner’s advice on when to use the brace. The purpose of the brace is to prevent full extension and flexion (stretching and bending) of the elbow so as to decrease irritation of the nerve and allow it to heal, thereby reducing pain. It is, however, desirable to allow for some movement of the elbow during the night.

There are several cubital tunnel syndrome braces on the market. The brace can be a rigid, thermoplastic splint molded to provide an optimum degree of flexion to the elbow. The correct amount of flexion (30–45 degrees, similar to a ‘handshake’ position) minimizes pressure on the ulnar nerve. Another option is a soft elbow splint that has an aluminum or thermoplastic stay. The advantage of thermoplastic is that it can be heated and molded to the desired degree of flexion. For comfort and the best fit, braces for cubital tunnel syndrome should have a soft, padded liner next to the skin, and be held in place by adjustable straps that can be tightened if the brace begins to slip. Try to avoid a brace that has a compression strap running over the elbow itself, as this will put pressure on the nerve. Many models are available in a short or long length. Be aware that the longer length may also be wider in diameter.

Ask your medical practitioner about a brace for cubital tunnel syndrome, and speak with a qualified salesperson who will help you choose the best one.

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