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 hands or suspect CTS please speak with your physician or contact Heiden Orthopedics.

AOC

10 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

Reply

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.

Reply

    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?

Reply

    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

Reply

    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 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

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