Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

My doctor thinks I have cubital tunnel syndrome of the right arm. The electrical tests I had done were all negative. Why don't they show anything?

Answer:

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a pinched ulnar nerve at the elbow. Constantly bending the elbow puts pressure on the nerve causing pain, numbness, and tingling at the elbow and sometimes down the arm into the hand.

The nerve can be checked with two electrodiagnostic tests. The first is nerve conduction velocity (NCV), which measures the speed of messages down the nerve across the elbow. Any compression of the nerve will slow the messages down. The second is an electromyogram or EMG.

The EMG tests the muscles innervated by the motor portion of the nerve. Muscle weakness and atrophy may occur with a pinched nerve. If the nerve compression is mild, then the test may be negative. If only a portion of the nerve fibers are affected, then EMG and NCV may appear normal.

This may be the case for you. Ask your doctor to explain the results to you. If the symptoms persist or get worse, you may benefit from having the tests repeated to show any changes that have occurred.

Stuart H. Kuschner, MD, et al. Evaluation of Elbow Flexion and Tinel Tests for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome in Asymptomatic Individuals. In Orthopedics. April 2006. Vol. 29. No. 4. Pp. 305-308.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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