A condition quite common in console gamers, cubital tunnel syndrome—like carpal tunnel syndrome—is a nerve condition that can affect the hand.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is impingement or irritation of the ulnar nerve within the cubital tunnel at the elbow. This is the area commonly referred to as the funny bone. If the ulnar nerve becomes irritated in this region due to pressure, inflammation, and/or stretching, symptoms will occur.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is more prevalent in console gamers due to the position of the hands and arms while gripping a controller. If you’re a console gamer, you’re more likely to develop cubital tunnel syndrome if you lean your elbows on your knees or on the armrests of your chair.
Note: although more common in console gamers, PC gamers are not completely excluded from experiencing cubital tunnel syndrome. If you’re a PC gamer, you may still rest your elbows on the armrests, and this may lead to symptoms.
It’s important to know some basic anatomy of the elbow to understand cubital tunnel syndrome.
To begin, the word “cubital” in cubital tunnel syndrome is in reference to your elbow. The cubital tunnel is an anatomical passageway around the back of your elbow comprised of bones and fascia.
The only structure to pass through this passageway is your ulnar nerve. The boundaries of the cubital tunnel are:
The ulnar nerve innervates many muscles below your elbow:
The ulnar nerve is also responsible for touch sensation for a large portion of your hand. The cutaneous innervation (touch sensation) includes:
The median nerve DOES NOT provide touch sensation to your thumb, index, middle finger, or the corresponding portion of your hand!
Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when there is compression or irritation of the ulnar nerve within the cubital tunnel. The compression or irritation may be caused by:
If you’re affected by cubital tunnel syndrome, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Note: cubital tunnel syndrome does not cause any of the above listed symptoms in the thumb, index, middle finger, or corresponding portion of your hand. Those symptoms are more consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other common findings may include:
Note: paleness or blue color and/or cool or cold sensation along with tingling and numbness are indicative of blood flow occlusion. This may be a more serious condition, and you should consult your doctor or visit the emergency room if you are concerned about these symptoms.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is more common for console gamers due to the handling of a controller and resting of the elbows/forearms. Common risks for console gamers include:
For all common gaming injuries, we’ve created a comprehensive injury prevention program. Performing this exercise routine may help reduce your risk for cubital tunnel syndrome.
The most common mechanisms of injury for cubital tunnel syndrome are direct compression of the ulnar nerve and poor and/or prolonged static position.
Elbow position: it is important to keep your elbows relatively neutral:
Use & overuse: overuse may cause chronic muscle tightness or other injury which can cause crowding of the ulnar nerve:
Correcting ergonomics is often enough to relieve symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome. Avoiding compression and tension will usually begin the healing process.
In practice, the following treatments are effective for improving the rate of recovery for cubital tunnel syndrome:
It is also important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and/or include anti-inflammatory supplements in your diet to prevent chronic, systemic inflammation that may worsen nerve compression at your elbow.
Following resolution, continuation of these protocols allows for prevention of this condition from reoccurring.
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