My doctor diagnosed my elbow trouble as cubital tunnel syndrome. My ring and little fingers keep falling asleep, and I can't hold a fist for more than a few seconds. What can be done about this?

Cubital tunnel syndrome is when pressure on the ulnar nerve--the nerve along the inner side of the elbow--causes symptoms. The person may have numbness and tingling of the ring and little fingers. There may be elbow pain and loss of grip strength.

Early treatment may include holding the elbow in a straight position with a splint (especially at night), anti-inflammatory medications, and treatment with a physical therapist. Ask your doctor to help you find a therapist who is trained in a technique called neural mobilization. This technique gently releases the nerve in its pathway, restores its natural movement, and increases its circulation.

If the symptoms do not improve after four to six weeks, surgery may be necessary. A recent study showed that early surgery to take the pressure off the nerve has a better result than waiting until the nerve tests positive for injury. By that time, permanent damage may develop, and surgery may be less successful.