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.