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Health Library

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

What Is the Ulnar Nerve?

The Ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in the arm. It travels down from the neck into the hand.

What Is Ulnar Nerve Entrapment?

Ulnar nerve entrapment, also known as cubital tunnel syndrome, occurs when the ulnar nerve gets compressed or irritated at the elbow as it travels from the neck to the hand. Pressure on the nerve can cause pain in the elbow or hand.

Common Causes

There are a few factors that can put pressure on the nerve. These include keeping the elbow bent for long periods of time, fluid buildup in the elbow, or a direct blow to the elbow.


History and physical exam by a qualified musculoskeletal expert is the first step. A doctor will examine the hand and arm to see which nerve is compressed. X-rays of the elbow can rule out any bone abnormalities and nerve conduction studies can help to determine how the nerve is working.


Non-surgical treatment will most likely be explored first. A doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to help reduce swelling around the nerve. To keep the elbow in a straight position a doctor may prescribe a brace or splint to wear.

Surgical treatment will be explored if the condition is not improved by non-surgical treatment. An orthopedic surgeon will discuss the surgical procedure options with you. Surgical procedures include releasing a ligament over the nerve to reduce pressure or moving the nerve to the front of the elbow to reduce the tension on the nerve.

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