This article discusses the differences between carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome, which are two different but very closely related conditions. I’ve recently dealt with one of the two conditions, and that has taught me a lot about both carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes.
Carpal Tunnel vs Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: My Personal Experience
About a year ago, I woke up one day and noticed that the pinkie finger on my right hand was completely numb. My right ring finger also had some numbness, but was nothing like the complete numbness in my pinkie.
The numbness in the pinkie was so bad that I could bang it against a table and barely feel anything. The numb feeling was very disconcerting, but I figured that I had just slept oddly on my right hand or wrist. I expected the numbness to dissipate during the day, but it did not.
I was naturally worried about the numbness and mentioned it to my friend Dave, who laughed and told me I probably had carpal tunnel syndrome. Dave knew I spent hours every day on my computer, and he said carpal tunnel syndrome is often associated with computer use.
It did not take me long to research carpal tunnel syndrome and realize that is not what I had. Instead, I had cubital tunnel syndrome, which is like a cousin to carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are the differences between carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes, and what I did to get rid of the numbness in my pinkie and ring fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve is a nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm of the hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of bones and tendons at the base of the hand that the median nerve passes through.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve gets squeezed or pressured as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The pressure on the median nerve causes the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which include numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers.
The way I knew that I did not have carpal tunnel syndrome is because the numbness in the hand and fingers associated with carpal tunnel syndrome does not include the pinkie.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
The ulnar nerve is a nerve that passes through the cubital tunnel in the elbow and stretches to the hand. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve gets squeezed or pressured in the cubital tunnel in the elbow.
The most common symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome is numbness or tingling in especially the pinkie finger, and to a lesser extent the ring finger. That is how I knew I had cubital tunnel syndrome and not carpal tunnel syndrome, because the numbness was mainly in my pinkie and not the rest of my hand.
How I Relieved the Numbness in My Pinkie that was Caused by Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
At the time my pinkie finger went numb from cubital tunnel syndrome, I was using a computer many hours a day where I rested my elbow and forearm on the sliding shelf of a computer table where I kept the mouse for the computer. The constant pressure I created on the ulnar nerve from resting my elbow and forearm on the sliding shelf while using the computer is what caused the cubital tunnel syndrome.
In order to relieve the pressure on my ulnar nerve, I started resting my elbow and forearm on a spongy foam pad I bought at a computer store. I also found a video that showed me some flossing exercises to do to floss my ulnar nerve.
Doing the flossing exercises recommended in the video really helped to relieve the numbness in my pinkie and ring fingers. Not long after doing the flossing exercises I could feel the numbness dissipating in the pinkie, and within about a week all the numbness in my pinkie and ring fingers went away.
Today, I still rest my forearm and elbow on the spongy foam pad when using the computer and I have not suffered from cubital tunnel syndrome since. I will still occasionally do the ulnar nerve flossing exercises, but only maybe once or twice a month.
The key is to keep the pressure from building up on the ulnar nerve. Since carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes are so closely related, if I had carpal tunnel syndrome I would try to keep the pressure off the median nerve, and I would look for flossing exercises designed to floss the median nerve.