What You Can Do About Occasional Numbness in Hands

hand3Numbness in hands is a condition that many people experience. It can happen while a person sleeps, while talking on a phone or even driving a car. The numbness can be caused by increased pressure on a nerve in the palm of the hand. Many refer to this as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

What Causes Numbness

The most common cause of numbness in hands is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS. Because of the pressure on the nerve, CTS can result in pain, weakness and/or numbness in the hand and fingers. Most often the thumb, index, middle and ring finger are affected.

Oftentimes there is no obvious cause to CTS. There is a variety of risk factors for example, women are more affected than men and the chance of having CTS increase with age. Medical conditions that can be linked to CTS are obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism and drug toxicity. There is evidence that pregnancy is related to CTS especially during the third trimester and could be associated with fluid retention.

The most common symptom indicated is a feeling of discomfort, tingling or numbness that wakes people from their sleep. Daytime actions like driving a car or holding a book may exacerbate nighttime discomfort of tingling and numbness in hands. Both hands may suffer CTS at the same time, though it is common that one side may feel worse.

Diagnosis

CTS diagnosis can be done by an exam performed by a physician or hand specialist. If you suspect you may have CTS please share all of your symptoms with your physician.

Several tests may be done to diagnose CTS. A physician may look for other factors that cause numbness like a pinched nerve in the neck or elbow. They will also test the small muscles in your hand, for loss of strength, as well as test the sensations in your fingertips for any loss of feeling.

If you suspect you may have CTS you may be asked to do a nerve study. A nerve study requires stimulating the median nerve and measuring how well the nerve conducts the signal. The second segment of the nerve study is to test the electrical activity of the small muscles in the hand.

Treatments for Numbness in Hands

There are non-surgical treatments for CTS, except for extreme cases. Generally speaking, the first line of treatment would be to wear a a wrist splint at night and sometimes during the day. Sometimes over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed or more aggressive treatments like steroids, ultrasound or occupational therapy.

If non-surgical measures are ineffective your physician may recommend surgery. Referred to as Carpal Tunnel Release, the surgery involves releasing the pressure on the nerve by cutting the ligament that sits above the nerve, putting pressure on it. CTS surgery can be done with minimally invasive techniques that are very effective at relieving symptoms and speeding recovery.

If you have numbness in your hands or suspect CTS please speak with your physician or contact Heiden Orthopedics.

32 Comments


Greetings Dr Heiden

Dr. Rush referred me to you for evaluation. I have scheduled an appointment for
Next week. I found your article to be very informative. ( read after being awoken by pain in my hands). Thanks, George P Murphy

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Ive have the tingly in the tips of my fingers for going on a week now. It used to only happen when i would drive long distances and would fade after a day or so. I found this article to be very informative. Ty.

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    Christy,

    I’m glad this information was helpful for you. If your issue persists please speak with your physician or contact us @ 435-615-8822

    Reply

I only get tingley hands after long trips driving a car. I’ve had trigger finger release in both hands. I’m hoping the tingley fingers at night doesn’t start.
Is there anything to be done to relieve the numbness when it happens? When people are awakened, what can be done then to help? Hot? Cold? Raise? Lower the hands? Shake and Shout?

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    Charles,
    Tingly hands (e.g. pins & needles, numbness) can be associated with a nerve compression disorder such as carpal tunnel (median nerve) or cubital tunnel (ulnar nerve) syndrome. Often times it’s associated with a specific posture like having your elbows flexed too much (cubital tunnel syndrome) or your wrists flexed too much (median nerve syndrome). Often times the tingly hands resolves with correction of the posture that lead to the symptoms in the first place or when you discontinue the activity that was causing it in the first place. Ultimately, evaluation by an orthopaedic surgeon would be advisable if these symptoms are occurring regularly and affecting your quality of life.
    Wishing you the best, Dr. Feria

    Reply

Hi Dear

I’ve have numbness on both of my hands. It usually occurred in day and night both times when I take nap and hold mobile phone in my hands to browse for 30 to 60 minutes. Sometimes numbness happened holding mobile after an hour or two but happens on both hands same time. I found this blog very compelling abut numbness, thought should seek an advice from you. Thank you

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    Hello Mudassar,
    The numbness you’re experiencing could be related to a nerve compression disorder such as carpal tunnel syndrome (median nerve compression at the wrist) or cubital tunnel syndrome (ulnar nerve compression at the elbow). The fact that it is associated with cell phone usage could point that it might be cubital tunnel syndrome, which is typically made worse when you have your elbows flexed such as you would while laying in bed and using your cell phone. The exact distribution of numbness could also help figure out what ever is the culprit, since a cubital tunnel syndrome that affects the ulnar nerve will cause numbness in the small and ringer finger distribution; whereas carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve which will cause numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers. Ultimately, both of these conditions can be effectively treated with non-operative and operative measures if non-responsive to the conservative treatments. I would recommend you see an orthopaedic surgeon for further discussion on measures to help improve your numbness and quality of life.
    All the best, Dr. Feria

    Reply

      Hi sir, am experiencing the same what if I stop over using cellphone, will I get better without visiting any physician ??

      Reply

        Mejja,
        Improvement depends on the severity of your condition. It is always advisable to reduce factors causing issues to see if/how much the symptoms improve. If you don’t see improvement you could then schedule to see a physician at that point.

        Reply

Hi Doctor,
i had a drinking problem for some time but been sober for two years now,even though i still take sertralnie 50mg once a day for the past two months i have been having first at night while sleeping causing me to awake,then in my right arm to my fingers while driving now it starts out right side than left as i type my right side is pins and needles any advice would help..
thank you
hussam

Reply

    Hussam,
    Congratulations on your sobriety.
    If you are experiencing pain that wakes you at night I would recommend seeing an orthopedic upper extremity specialist. They can help you rule out the cause of your “pins and needles” feeling. Best of luck!

    Reply

Hello
The numbness you’re experiencing could be related to a nerve compression disorder such as carpal tunnel syndrome (median nerve compression at the wrist) or cubital tunnel syndrome (ulnar nerve compression at the elbow). The fact that it is associated with cell phone usage could point that it might be cubital tunnel syndrome, which is typically made worse when you have your elbows flexed such as you would while laying in bed and using your cell phone. The exact distribution of numbness could also help figure out what ever is the culprit, since a cubital tunnel syndrome that affects the ulnar nerve will cause numbness in the small and ringer finger distribution; whereas carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve which will cause numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers. Ultimately, both of these conditions can be effectively treated with non-operative and operative measures if non-responsive to the conservative treatments. I would recommend you see an orthopaedic surgeon for further discussion on measures to help improve your numbness and quality of life.

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Dear Dr, I am an emphysema patient. I am having frequent bouts of numbing in both hands especially in the morning and whenever holding something for more than 5 minutes (like right now , trying to ty this message) .
Any advice would be welcomed.
Thank you.

Reply

    Evanthea,
    Hand numbness can be caused by many factors. Without evaluation and reviewing medical records, it would be difficult to determine if your underlying disease is a significant contributing factor. I would recommend seeing an orthopedic hand specialist, or you can start with your primary care doctor and they can help you find the right specialist for continued care. All the best.

    Reply

Your information has been very helpful, but because I have an underlying decease , I would like to know if it makes any difference to me.
Gratitude.

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Hi Dr,
I tend to get numbness in my right hand fingers quite often during the day while im painting (houses) with a paint brush. I’ve been painting full time now for about 15years and only recently has this numbness started. Could it be CTS?

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    Benny,
    Thanks for your questions. Numbness in your hands/fingers should be evaluated by an orthopedic hand surgeon to determine the exact location. Where your numbness is located/which fingers will help determine if it is CTS, ulnar neuropathy, coming from/caused by your neck, or something else. I hope this helps.

    Reply

    My hands have had been falling asleep constantly while doing multiple tasks and I know it’s from overuse because during work I use my right wrist constantly and ever since getting that job I’ve been having this problem. Is there any methods in which I can self-care for it myself before seeing a doctor or should I go to the doctors and get there opinion. It’s really bothers me throughout the day and is constant.

    Reply

      Julio,
      You could try modifications at work to see if they help. For example, if your job requires typing, take multiple short breaks to stretch out your hands and use a typing wrist support pad. If you know you’ll be doing some heavy lifting, then a wrist brace can help support the extra weight for short periods of time. Do not wear the brace 24/7.
      If modifications don’t help then I would recommend seeing an orthopedic hand specialists for a treatment plan.

      Reply

Hi!
Half of my hand is numb, and has been for hours. This has recently been happening for about 3 days, and I’m starting to get worried. It only occurs on the left side of my left hand. What can I do to make it stop?

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    Alex,
    If your hand is still numb, you need to get in for an evaluation. There are many things that can cause hand numbness, including carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel or radiculopathy from your neck. You will require a further work-up from an upper extremity specialist.

    Reply

Hi Dr,

My mom hands feel numb when she hit something or grab something for a while. She said it is like tingling sensation. She also has a tiny bump inside her thumb. The bump is not obvious from the outside. She does not feel pain at all but the thumb size is big like swollen. Whenever I touched her tiny bump, she feels itchy. I wonder both the numbness and bump are related. (She also broke her wrist a year ago)

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    Sharon,
    It would be hard to say if the numbness and bump are related without a proper evaluation, but it is possible. If she is still experiencing numbness and swelling, it should not be ignored. Take you Mother to see an upper extremity orthopedic specialist. They will be able to properly diagnose her and provide treatment options. All the best!

    Reply

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present in institution of higher education.

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My boyfriend works in construction but lately the tips of his fingers have been feeling numb and were worried.

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    Daniesha,
    If the numbness in his hands is affecting his life in a noticeable way, or if it worsens over time, it’s best to seek the professional advice of a doctor. Hand numbness can be caused by many factors and we always recommend you see an orthopedic hand specialist to determine the source and treatment plan.

    Reply

I sat too long in a certain position and caused numbness in my pink, ring finger and down the outside of my arm. No problem except it’s been 24 hours and I’m still numb. Rubbing it is not helping. What to do now??

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    Shariese,
    If the numbness lasts for a few days, or if it seems to spread to other body parts, call your doctor. If it is not accompanied by any other symptoms, you could try some light hand and wrist exercises and stretches.

    Reply

Ok as unbelievable as it sounds 1 yr ago I felt like a healthy God athlete, but as of now I feel like I have every symptom of pain there could possibly be including my right arm falling asleep like pins and needles while I’m awake or grabbing a hold of something like a weed eater trigger. often I find myself with legs that are asleep just from sitting down for a few minutes and arms that are asleep just from stretching my hands. Also I wake up with shallow breathing and once or twice in the last year I have had dark yellow eyes but no testing for hepatitis. I had assumed I developed diabetes because I eat mainely sweets all day long but I do have healthy meals at the end of every day I’m so confused as to why I have so many symptoms of so many different and possibilities of various conditions or illnesses I just need pointed in the right direction. The emergency room tells me hi most likely have diabetes with low sugar level but others say I have very high sugar level above 250. My right arm and hand are my worst problems right now I would just like to know if carpal tunnel can develop in a 30 year old?

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    Mitchell,
    Anyone can get carpel tunnel syndrome, though it is unusual before age 20. The chance of getting carpal tunnel syndrome increases with age and is most common between ages 40-60 years old.
    As for a direction to start, have you seen your Primary Care Physician (PCP)? They can give you referrals to help you narrow down the cause of your symptoms. I would start there.
    If you have already seen a PCP and want to focus on the arm and hand, I would recommend setting an appointment with a Orthopedic hand and upper extremity specialist. They might order an EMG (nerve conduction study) to help diagnose your condition and rule out other conditions.
    You could also consider seeing a neurologist, since it is more than just your hands and arm going numb. Hope this helps you know where to start. All the best!

    Reply

Excellent help, thank you. Was easy to read, made sense and got rid of my growing concerns.

Reply

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