Read below about hand numbness, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your hand numbness from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having hand numbness

Take a quiz

Hand Numbness Symptoms

Hand numbness can be described as a loss of sensation in the fingers, hand, or arm. Many people have experienced this sensation when falling asleep for too long on a crooked arm or after activities such as prolonged typing. Symptoms of hand numbness can be initially alarming. Hand numbness may be associated with other symptoms that may feel strange and concerning.

For example, symptoms you may also experience that accompany your hand numbness include:

  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Weakness or clumsiness

Often these symptoms are temporary. Many of us are familiar with shaking out our hands after a long day of typing or massaging the fingers to find quick relief from numbness. However, if your hand numbness happens frequently or persists, make an appointment with your doctor to follow up on your hand numbness symptoms and get appropriate care.

Hand Numbness Causes Overview

Hand numbness is the result of injury, compression or irritation of a nerve or a branch of one of the nerves in your arm or wrist. The hand is composed of many nerves and small blood vessels that begin higher up in the shoulder and arm and branch off in various directions for blood flow and sensation throughout the hand. Thus, causes that result in hand numbness are varied, but can be divided into the following categories.

Systemic disease causes:

  • Metabolic: Poor glucose control in diabetes can damage the peripheral nerves causing numbness in the hands and other parts of the body (peripheral neuropathy).
  • Tumors: Cancerous and noncancerous growths in the body can directly compress nerves as high as your shoulder and arm that can affect the nerves in your hand and fingers, resulting in numbness.
  • Hereditary: Some uncommon inherited disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease can affect multiple nerves in the body and result in numbness. Sometimes anatomical defects that you are born with (for example, an extra rib) can compress nerves and blood vessels in the arm resulting in hand numbness.

Inflammatory causes:

  • Autoimmune: Many inflammatory diseases that result in the body attacking itself can also affect the nerves and cause injury that results in numbness. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis and lupus are examples of such autoimmune diseases.
  • Infections: Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease and multiple viral infections such as shingles can cause inflammation and nerve injury that results in hand numbness symptoms.

Environmental causes:

  • Toxins: Toxins that cause injury to the nerves include heavy metals such as lead and substances such as alcohol. Too much exposure to either can cause nerve damage that leads to numbness.
  • Vitamin Imbalance: There are certain vitamins that are essential to healthy nerve function such as vitamins E and B12. Deficiencies in these vitamins over time can lead to nerve damage and injury. Conversely, exposure to too much vitamin B6 can cause hand numbness symptoms.
  • Trauma: Any situation where the hand or arm is crushed or damaged will result in hand numbness and nerve pain. Furthermore, repetitive actions such as typing or using crutches can cause trauma to the nerves via compression resulting in hand numbness symptoms.

9 Potential Hand Numbness Causes

  1. 1.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

    De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

    4-6 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand
    Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis:
    thumb pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Hand

    Repetitive strain injury of the hand is caused by consistent repetitive use.

    Resolves with rest

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand weakness, hand pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the hand:
    hand pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the hand:
    hand injury, severe hand pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Mild Frostbite of the Upper Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    It takes 1-3 months to assess the damage, at which time, surgery might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand pain, hand redness, cold hands, cold fingers
    Symptoms that always occur with mild frostbite of the upper limbs:
    cold fingers
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

    Hand Numbness Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having hand numbness.

    Take a quiz
  5. 5.Frostnip of the Upper Limbs

    Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

    As long as you are able to get to a place to re-warm, the damage should be reversible.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand pain, hand redness, cold hands, cold fingers
    Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the upper limbs:
    cold fingers
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  6. 6.Multiple Sclerosis (Ms)

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is involved in carrying nerve signals so this damage causes interruptions in nerve signaling.

    This is a lifelong condition; however, treatment may be beneficial.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    severe fatigue, constipation, numbness, decreased sex drive, signs of optic neuritis
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Severe Frostbite of the Upper Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    It takes 1-3 months to assess the damage, at which time, surgery might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand pain, swollen finger, hand redness, cold hands
    Symptoms that always occur with severe frostbite of the upper limbs:
    cold fingers
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Compartment Syndrome

    Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.

    Prognosis is highly variable after surgery and depends on how rapidly you are treated.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Diabetic Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where pain, numbness, weakness, and motor loss occur in the limbs due to the effects of diabetes on the nerves.

    Symptoms can last a lifetime.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, fatigue
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Hand Numbness Treatments and Relief

Prevention of temporary symptoms of numbness can be treated by simple lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid repetitive motions, cramped positions that put unnecessary pressure on your nerves, and toxic exposures such as alcohol.
  • Often relief can be found in improving your posture, buying a support for your wrists while typing, or taking breaks throughout the day in order to lessen compression and irritation of the nerves in your arms/shoulders and subsequently your hands.

However, if you experience frequent, persistent episodes of hand numbness, visit your doctor to find the exact cause of your condition in order to get appropriate treatment.

Depending on the cause, your doctor may first suggest other lifestyle modifications such as:

  • Balanced diet rich in essential vitamins to keep the nerves healthy: Fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins can provide your body with the nutrition necessary to maintain your nerves.
  • Regular exercise: Maintaining an optimal weight with exercise as well as a balanced diet can prevent and also control metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
  • Medications: Your doctor may be able to give you a prescription that can treat tingling and other symptoms related to numbness in the hands.
  • Physical therapy: If your hand numbness symptoms are due to anatomical conditions or trauma that cause compression of the nerves and blood vessels leading to your hands, your doctor may suggest physical therapy to help take the pressure off these body parts, which also may improve your range of motion and posture.
  • Surgery: If other treatments are ineffective and your hand numbness symptoms continue to progress or worsen, your doctor may recommend looking into surgical options to combat your symptoms.

If you experience any symptoms of speech difficulty, facial drooping, or weakness to the point you cannot raise your hand or arm, call 911 immediately. These could be signs of a stroke.

FAQs About Hand Numbness

Here are some frequently asked questions about hand numbness.

Why do my hands go numb when I sleep?

Your hands may go numb when you go to sleep due to nerve irritation or positioning. Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common cause of irritation, can manifest as hand numbness at night. Additionally, we generally do not have control over how we toss and turn during sleep. Some of these tosses may end up with your hands in a position that irritates the nerves or cuts off bloodflow, leading to temporary numbness.

Can shoulder pain cause numbness in the hands?

Yes, shoulder pain can lead to numbness in the hands. Your sense of touch is carried by nerves that run from the skin to the spinal cord and up to the brain. The nerves which handle sensation of the hand run in bundles through the shoulder. Shoulder pain can represent an injury to the shoulder that irritates or compresses one of these nerves, leading to numbness in the hand. If you experience this symptom, you should seek medical evaluation to avoid permanent loss of sensation.

Why is my left hand numb?

Left hand numbness may be caused by many conditions. Most commonly, this is due to positioning restricting blood flow to the hand or irritating the nerve. However, if your hand suddenly becomes numb or clumsy, this can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a stroke or nerve injury. Some autoimmune diseases can also lead to numbness in one hand.

Why do I keep getting pins and needles in my hands?

Pins and needles sensations are caused by nerve irritation or damage. This is usually due to positioning such as when you sit on your hand or if you have a pinched or irritated nerve, such as in carpal tunnel syndrome and cervical stenosis. More severe or chronic tingling may be due to diabetes (though this usually begins in the feet), Raynaud’s disease, medications, toxins, infections, autoimmune disease, vitamin deficiency, or injury.

Why do my hands feel tingly and numb when I wake up?

Most often, your hand may feel tingly and numb upon waking up due to the position in which you were sleeping. If you accidentally slept on your hand or bent your wrist inappropriately while asleep, this can irritate the nerves of the hand or cut off blood flow, leading to transient numbness. This may also be a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Hand Numbness

  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Turn your head toward the side of your body that is hurting. Lift your head up as someone else pushes down on your head. Does this cause greater pain in your upper body? (This is known as Spurling's test.)
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.About your [shoulder], do you notice any of the following?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our hand numbness symptom checker to find out more.

Take a quiz

Hand Numbness Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced hand numbness have also experienced:

    • 4% Pain in One Shoulder
    • 4% Hand Tingling
    • 3% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced hand numbness had symptoms persist for:

    • 42% Less Than a Day
    • 25% Over a Month
    • 16% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced hand numbness were most often matched with:

    • 8% Fibromyalgia
    • 1% De Quervain's Tenosynovitis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having hand numbness

Take a quiz