Effects of aerobic exercise on cubital tunnel syndrome

Background and Purpose. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of an aerobic exercise program on the treatment of mild (stage I) cubital tunnel syndrome. Subjects. Two female subjects participated in this study. Both subjects were diagnosed with mild (stage I) cubital tunnel syndrome by a physical therapist, who was also a board certified orthopedic specialist. Methods. Two subjects met the inclusion criteria for this study and were given a pre-test to determine baseline symptoms. Baseline tests included a sensory two-point discrimination test, a monofilament sensory test, and a modified McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ). Each subject also completed a questionnaire that included estimated symptomatic days per week for the 7 day and 30 day periods preceding initial testing. The subjects viewed a short educational video and a low impact aerobics video to be performed at home 3-5 days per week. Subjects were also instructed to wear an elbow splint at night to their tolerance. Each subject kept a daily log describing the quality of their symptoms, the severity of their symptoms, the amount of time the splint was worn, and the amount of exercise performed. At the completion of an eight-week exercise program, subjects were post-tested in the same manner as the pre-test, and completed the questionnaire that included estimated symptomatic days per week. Data was collected and analyzed to determine whether any change in their symptoms occurred during the program. Results. Both subjects reported improvements in the severity of their symptoms as evidenced by MPQ scores. In addition, the estimated average symptomatic days per week for each subject was reduced after participating in the eight-week program. Between the pre-test and post-test, subject #1 improved slightly in both the monofilament and two point discrimination sensory tests. Subject #2 improved slightly in the monofilament sensory test, and declined slightly in the two-point discrimination sensory test. Conclusion. Aerobic exercise appears to have a beneficial effect on the severity of symptoms and light (superficial) touch sensitivity related to mild cubital tunnel syndrome. Results of two point discrimination were inconclusive as both subjects in the study had inconsistent pre and post-test scores. Overall, the results of this study warrant further investigation with a larger sample.