Definition

Numbness in one or both hands describes a loss of sensation or feeling in your hand or fingers. Often, numbness in hands may be accompanied by other changes, such as a pins-and-needles sensation, burning or tingling. The arm, hand or fingers may feel clumsy or weak.

Numbness can occur along a single nerve, or it may occur in both hands in a symmetrical pattern.

What causes hand numbness?

Hand numbness can be a symptom of a wide variety of diseases, disorders or conditions that either restrict blood flow or cause injury to the nerves.

Temporary hand numbness can be due to any activity that causes prolonged pressure on a nerve or nerves, such as fine motor activities (drawing), repetitive motion, and sleeping the wrong way on your arm. Hand numbness can also be due to orthopedic conditions that compress a specific nerve, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disk disease in the cervical spine, and bony spurs.

Hand numbness may also include finger numbness or tingling. Pinky and ring finger numbness on the back and palm side of the hand can be a sign of entrapment or compression of the ulnar nerve in the arm, possibly due to problems with the elbow joint. However, the ulnar nerve can also be compressed at the shoulder, collar bone, or wrist. Numbness of the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring finger are largely due to problems with the median nerve and may be caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms that may occur along with hand numbness

Hand numbness may occur with other symptoms including:

  • Burning feeling
  • Cold hand or fingers
  • Hand, arm, or finger pain
  • Increased numbness or tingling while typing or writing
  • Itching feeling
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neck pain
  • Pins-and-needles (prickling) sensation
  • Rash
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Twitching

Treatment

Drugs

 In special circumstances, various drugs can ease the pain and swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonprescription pain relievers, may ease symptoms that have been present for a short time or have been caused by strenuous activity. Orally administered diuretics ("water pills") can decrease swelling. Corticosteroids (such as prednisone) or the drug lidocaine can be injected directly into the wrist or taken by mouth (in the case of prednisone) to relieve pressure on the median nerve and provide immediate, temporary relief to persons with mild or intermittent symptoms. (Caution: persons with diabetes and those who may be predisposed to diabetes should note that prolonged use of corticosteroids can make it difficult to regulate insulin levels. Corticosteroids should not be taken without a doctor's prescription.) Additionally, some studies show that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) supplements may ease the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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  • Wrist splinting.A splint that holds your wrist still while you sleep can help relieve nighttime symptoms of tingling and numbness. Nocturnal splinting may be a good option if you're pregnant and have carpal tunnel syndrome.Splints are either soft or rigid, but the soft types are easier to find. Most splints perform the same function, yet there’s a wide price range. Within the variety of splints available, choose from those specifically designed for your condition and cause of tingling in your hands, because they accommodate special issues like ease of applying and ensuring the neutral position is maintained. The most versatile splints are made of flexible fabric with rigid internal supports.
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  • Corticosteroids injection .Your doctor may inject your carpal tunnel with a corticosteroid such as cortisone to relieve your pain.

Corticosteroids decrease inflammation and swelling, which relieves pressure on the median nerve. Oral corticosteroids aren't considered as effective as corticosteroid injections for treating carpal tunnel syndrome.

Exercise

Exercise - Stretching and strengthening exercises can be helpful in people whose symptoms have abated. These exercises may be supervised by a physical therapist, who is trained to use exercises to treat physical impairments, or an occupational therapist, who is trained in evaluating people with physical impairments and helping them build skills to improve their health and well-being.

Prayer stretch

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  1. Start with your palms together in front of your chest just below your chin.
  2. Slowly lower your hands toward your waistline, keeping your hands close to your stomach and your palms together, until you feel a mild to moderate stretch under your forearms.
  3. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

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Wrist flexor stretch

  1. Extend your arm in front of you with your palm up.
  2. Bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.
  3. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.
  4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

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Wrist extensor stretch

  1. Extend your arm in front of you with your palm down.
  2. Bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.
  3. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.
  4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Physical therapy

Depending upon the causes of your numbness and tingling in hands , your therapy program may include:

  • Education regarding:
    • changing wrist positions (ie, avoiding prolonged bent wrist positions)
    • proper neck and upper back posture (ie, avoiding forward head or slouching)
    • safe use of sharp utensils, tools, or other implements, if sensory changes are identified
    • "stretch breaks" during your work or daily routine
  • Exercises to increase the strength of the muscles in your hand, fingers, and forearm—and in some cases, the trunk and postural back muscles
  • Stretching exercises to improve the flexibility of the wrist, hand, and fingers
  • Use of heat/cold treatments to relieve pain
  • Use of a night splint to reduce discomfort

 

Prevention

The following strategies are effective ways to minimize stress to your hands and wrists:

  • Reduce force. Most people use more force than needed when performing work with their hands. Relax your grip to avoid muscle fatigue and strain.
  • Take frequent breaks. When doing repeated activities, give your hands a break by performing stretching exercises once in a while.
  • Neutral wrist position. Avoid bending your wrists by keeping them in a straight or “neutral” position. \
  • Improve your posture. Make sure your posture is appropriate to the task you are performing. proper alignment of your trunk, neck, and shoulders can prevent excessive strain and improper positioning of the wrists and hands.
  • Keep your hands warm. You are more likely to develop hand pain and stiffness if you work in a cold environment. If you can't control the temperature, be sure to wear gloves to keep your hands and wrists warm.
  • Maintain good health. Paying attention to your general health is an important step in preventing CTS. Staying physically fit and maintaining a healthy weight may help control diseases and conditions that may contribute to the onset of CTS.