September 26, 2023

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Cubital Tunnel or Carpal Tunnel: Which Do You Have?

Carpal tunnel is a relatively common condition, affecting four to ten million Americans, according to the Rheumatology Research Foundation. But a lesser-known condition that can present with symptoms similar to carpal tunnel syndrome is cubital tunnel syndrome. Learn more about these conditions and what their main differences are. 

What Are “Tunnel” Syndromes?

The word “tunnel” in both carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel refers to spaces that tendons, ligaments, or other structures form. These tunnels provide a path for the nerves in your wrists that give muscle function and sensation to your hands. 

When these tunnels become narrower than they should be, you develop carpal or cubital tunnel. This narrowing pinches the nerves. Repetitive movements and overuse are infamous for causing inflammation, leading to tunnel syndromes, but there are many conditions that can cause this issue, including:

  • Physical injury
  • Overuse
  • Thyroid disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic or acute inflammation
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Fluid retention

Cubital Tunnel vs. Carpal Tunnel

Both syndromes present with similar symptoms in the hands, including pain, burning, weakness, tingling or numbness, and loss of coordination. The difference between these conditions is in where the symptoms occur, as well as the nerves involved.

With carpal tunnel syndrome, the affected area is called the median nerve, a major nerve in your arm that provides sensation and controls the movements of your thumb and first two fingers. This is where people with carpal tunnel will feel most of their symptoms.

When it comes to cubital tunnel syndrome, the affected nerve is the ulnar nerve. This is the nerve that makes your arm tingle when you hit your elbow. You might know it better as the funny bone. Cubital tunnel syndrome will affect your hand, but many of the symptoms will also be at the elbow. 

As opposed to the thumb and first two fingers affected by carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome affects your ring finger and little finger. You might also feel pain or numbness on the outer edge of the hand. 

By identifying where you feel symptoms, you can have a better idea of the condition you have and what the best treatment options might be.

Get Treatment for Tunnel Syndromes

There are excellent, minimally invasive treatment options, like regenerative medicine, that can offer the relief you need without requiring surgery. But whether you have carpal or cubital tunnel, it’s important to explore options as soon as possible. The sooner you begin managing the cause of the tunnel syndrome you have, the sooner you can have relief of any pain and inflammation you are experiencing.

This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for back pain, also known as stem cell therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.