If you have numbness to the small finger and half of your ring finger, then you might have a cubital tunnel. Now, I already did some videos that talked about, like, what causes it, the symptoms that you might feel, and I even shared with you a whole treatment. I even shared with you treatment stretches and methods in which you can start doing things to take care of your cubital tunnel. But, usually, when people ask me, like, “What happens when you ignore cubital tunnel?”
My name is Hoang. I’m an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist. And I’m gonna share with you my perspective and what I tell my patients when they come in and have questions about the cubital tunnel. Because everyone’s like, “What can I do? How fast do I need to do this?” Cubital tunnel is one of those problems that it’s a chronic issue, It sort of started coming real slowly, here and there. You feel some issues, and then it goes away. And then over a period of time, it can become more frequent. Like, “Oh, now it’s…” You know, every once in a while, I would wake up, and my hands would be numb. Every once in a while when I was doing X, Y, and Z, then my hands would get numb.
What Happens When You Ignore a Cubital tunnel?
You can have more pain. The pain can last longer. It can be more severe. It starts to interrupt your day. So, it’s not that you can’t do the stuff that you want to do. It’s not like you can’t go to the gym. It’s not like you can’t work, but your symptoms, of the numbness, of the pain, gets worse. It disrupts your sleep. Nerves tend to have that problem. It starts to disrupt your sleep. And then you can’t sleep the whole night because you end up waking up. Because your body is, like, waking it up and saying, “You’re literally choking me to death.” So, your body wakes you up, and it forces you to kind of move. And you’ll see, every time I see people shaking their hands, they shake their hands a little bit or they’re shaking their arm out.
You know, as a certified hand therapist, those are the signs that I look for. So, that’s what happens when you ignore your cubital tunnel. You’ll have worse symptoms more often, Sometimes that brings people in, and it’s because now they’re afraid. They’re afraid, like, “Oh, crap, like, this is getting worse. Like, what do I do?” If you ignore it, then one of the things that can happen is that you get permanent weakness. So, I don’t think this gets talked about enough, on… You know, if you’re doing Google searches and you’re doing YouTube searches, no one’s talking about the consequence of not taking care of cubital tunnel correctly. So, the nerve that comes through here, this is your ulnar nerve, it passes down your arm, it comes past your wrist, and it comes across your thumb,
And so the nerve is like these electrical wires, and it gives power to very particular nerves. I mean, sorry, it gives power to very particular muscles, and it tends to give muscles to these two fingers, And so these two fingers, your small finger and your ring finger, with your thumb give you power in your hand, Anytime people come to me, and they hurt these two fingers, and they’re like, “Well, how important is it?” It’s very important because those two fingers, this side, your ulnar side of your hand, gives you power in your grip, and your thumb does 50% of the work of your hand, So, if your two fingers and your thumb give you good full power of your hand, when you lose power to the muscles that feed this side of your hand, you lose grip strength,
And so it makes it hard for you to hold on and do heavier things because you’ve lost grip strength. Now, here’s the most important thing. This nerve, the ulnar nerve, comes and innervates a very particular muscle of your thumb. It only innervates one muscle of your thumb. But let me tell you, that muscle is really, really important. Remember I said that your thumb does 50% of the work of your hand. So, what happens is, when you lose that one muscle, it affects how you can use your thumb to these two fingers and how much power you can lose in your grip. So, what happens with the cubital tunnel is, if something is strangling the shit out of your nerve, And prolonged, low, sustained, prolonged compression of that nerve causes nerve death. When something dies, you can’t get that back, So, you want to take care of any nerve issue, but if you have a cubital tunnel, man, it’s such a huge important nerve that goes to your hand.
You lose a lot of function. There’s a reason why that nerve is so important. Because it gives you so much power in your hands. So, I usually, you know, encourage people to, you know, take care of it sooner than later. Yes, you can try stuff on your own. You might have a mild case, and it works, then you do the exercises, and you do everything right, and it helps to relieve it. But if you’ve tried something and it hasn’t improved within a month’s time, you know, go get professional help because you don’t wanna ignore it. And, usually, what I tell my own patients is by the time you start feeling the symptoms, it’s already been going on for a little while. And that’s where people are like, “Oh, it only started when it got worse.” Like, when your pain increased, you’re like, “That’s when it started.”
Potential Consequences Occur When Ignoring Cubital Tunnel
Nerve Damage: Ignoring cubital tunnel syndrome can lead to progressive damage to the ulnar nerve. Prolonged compression or irritation can cause the nerve to become permanently damaged, resulting in weakness, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers.
- Muscle Atrophy: Nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness and atrophy in the hand and forearm. If left untreated, this muscle weakness can become severe, affecting your ability to perform everyday tasks and potentially leading to deformities in the hand.
- Loss of Dexterity: As the condition progresses, you may experience a loss of fine motor skills and dexterity in your hand, making it difficult to grip objects, write, type, or perform other tasks that require precise hand movements.
- Pain and Discomfort: Cubital tunnel syndrome often causes pain and discomfort in the elbow, forearm, and hand. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to chronic pain that affects your overall quality of life.
- Decreased Sensation: Nerve damage can result in decreased sensation in the affected hand and fingers. This can make it more challenging to detect changes in temperature, pressure, or pain, which could potentially lead to injury.
- Claw Hand Deformity: In severe cases of cubital tunnel syndrome, untreated nerve damage can lead to a claw hand deformity, where the fingers become permanently bent and the hand takes on a claw-like appearance.
- Complications with Work and Daily Life: The symptoms and functional limitations associated with untreated cubital tunnel syndrome can interfere with your ability to work and perform everyday activities. You may find it difficult to perform your job, drive, or engage in hobbies and recreational activities.
How To Avoid Severe Damage?
If you are trying to avoid permanent damage, you wanna take care of it sooner than later. I’ve worked with people who’ve taken care of it right away. I’ve worked with people who’ve taken care of it after they have permanent nerve death. And what happens is that nobody tells you, or maybe you heard it, but you’re not sure, maybe it’s not me. Maybe I’ll recover better faster, and it could happen. But I’ve worked with someone who it got compressed for so long that she had the atrophy, she has a permanent numbness, she has a permanent muscle weakness. And so by the time she decided to have surgery, it only alleviated the pain, but it didn’t fully…she could not fully recover muscle strength and sensation because she had waited so long, And so everyone’s level of time is a little different. So, some people fix it…you know, maybe their compression a little bit more severe, and it causes them to…you know, or maybe they’re just more attentive to their body.
Your chances of getting 100% is much higher, You wait multiple years. I mean, the person I’m talking about, I think she waited, like, upwards of 10 years, and by the time she came in and finally took care of it, it was permanent. And then the expectation was like, “Well, I had surgery.” I’m like, “Well, but some of your compression has been…you waited so long that now, you know, we cannot get…you know, we can try, but, you know, most likely, I wanna make sure that your expectations are aligned, that if you kill a certain amount of that nerve, we can’t get it back.” You can do all the surgery you want. It’s not gonna come back, Because you’ve just been choking and killing it all this time. So, there are definitely consequences to what happens when you ignore cubital tunnel,
So, you want to find a therapist, you know, they’re not so myopic, meaning they’re like, “Oh, it’s at the elbow. I’m only gonna treat you at the elbow.” You wanna find a therapist who’s willing to take a look at your whole arm and say, “Okay, what is causing the elbow problem, that is causing the hand problem?” So you can actually fix the issue and avoid permanent damage and avoid having surgery, you know, if avoiding surgery is important to you. I know some people don’t… You know, they’re like, “Let’s go have surgery.” And that’s okay. I used to be very much like, “Yeah, let’s go have surgery.” But at some point, it’s, like, you know, some people don’t need it. Some people are not candidates for it. And some things, you know, if it’s not that bad, you don’t need surgery. You gotta fix it naturally.
And it’s possible to fix it naturally. And if you’re waiting for me to say that, it is possible to fix it naturally and get rid of it. So, find yourself a trusted occupational therapist, certified hand therapist in your local area to help you figure out what is your best plan of action to take care of it before you get worse.
I hope this really helps you give you a little bit of insight into, you know, treating cubital tunnel for yourself. And if this hasn’t really worked or you really wanna get some guidance in terms of what you can do to get rid of the cubital tunnel faster, then you can find me here at Hands-On Therapy Services, we have a clinic located in Miami, Florida. So, give us a call. If you like videos like this, please let me know. Leave a comment below and hit subscribe, share with a friend, and I’ll see you on the next video.
About Hoang Tran – an expert in physical & occupational therapy
Hoang Tran is a Miami certified hand therapist , the owner of Hands-on Therapy Services and the author of the book “The Hands-On Approach”. She loves helping people with hand, neck and shoulder problems because she knows how bad and debilitating they can get if not addressed and treated properly (once and for all!).
The aim of her occupational therapy practice is to bring patients back to full functionality, without pills, injections or surgery. Occupational and Physical Therapy are both offered at Hands-On Therapy by our experienced therapists who provide a comprehensive approach to your care.
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