Lately I have developed a bout of self-diagnosed cubital tunnel syndrome that is making me mad. It started with a vague tingling in my pinky and ring fingers, progressing to a slight ache in those extremities over the course of several years. A few months ago it graduated to a near-constant pain that runs from the inside of my elbow to the tips of my fingers. Needless to say I got a bit grumpy over this.
Some careful research on the internet assured me that I am in immediate danger of keeling over dead. Some further research conceded that maybe I have what appears to be ulnar nerve entrapment. More specifically, the one where the ulnar nerve gets pinched as it runs through the cubital tunnel. In laymen’s terms: my funny “bone” was being compressed and it was far from funny.
The internet suggested I follow a healthy lifestyle, get regular exercise and avoid fast food, because surely the Big Mac is the cause of all the world’s grief (pro tip: it’s not). More enlightened advice explained that one of the leading causes of cubital tunnel syndrome is keeping the elbow bent for prolonged periods of time, such as sleeping with an arm crooked under the pillow. Which is of course what I do ALL THE TIME.
The obvious solution to this is to get a splint, but the ones available for reasonable prices were all geared towards sports performance or supporting the elbow during movement, which is not what I required. Luckily I remembered that I am in the habit of making garments specifically focused on body-modification, and after that the answer was clear: I would have to make my own damn splint.
I started by cutting up some old pyjama trousers as they ensured a nice comfy fit while sleeping. I just cut by sight without measuring it, so that would explain any wonkiness inherent in the final product.
Next I figured out some rough placements for the boning channels and the spring steel bones. For some reason I had 15cm steel bones on me. Not sure what I ever bought them for.
Construction: I decided to have two bones that will run along the inside of the elbow to keep my arm straight. For the other side I added a little pillow to cushion my poor abused ulnar nerve that was now feeling very funny and not in the mood for any sort of hard surface. Because I’m a designer and I care about such things, I added some nice contrasting stitching and black binding.
Finally I added some elastic to keep the whole thing attached to my arm. I didn’t want to include velcro on something I’d be sleeping in, and the elastic also causes the splint to have some give, which is nice.
It fits rather nicely onto my arm and cushions my elbow so well that I’ve taken to wearing the splint at work where I spent 99% of my time resting my elbow on a hard desk surface.
If I strain I can bend my arm about 90 degrees, which is the recommended maximum for cubital tunnel syndrome. Mostly it keeps my arm straight during sleep while not restricting my movements too much.
I don’t know if the cure was, in fact, just good ole’ time, or whether this nifty splint actually helped to get me there, but the fact remains that my arm feels much better now. I also did some exercises shared on YouTube by the nice occupational therapy students at Western Michigan University.
So maybe now I’ll start a roaring trade in comfy arm corsets for the ulnar nerve entrapped masses…