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.

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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.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Hand Numbness

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced hand numbness. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway filled with ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually, and as they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

    Recovery time varies depending on treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, hand weakness, wrist pain, weakness in one hand, pain in both hands
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Pinched Nerve in the Neck

    With age, disks separating the cervical vertebrae (which are the bones of your spine in your neck) lose height as well as lose water content, becoming stiffer. The vertebrae move closer together, and nerves that exit between these bones may be pinched, causing pain to travel down the nerve as it passes through the arm. The pain is usually sharp, and some people report a "pins and needles" sensation or even complete numbness.

    Majority of patients get better with time (weeks to months).

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain that radiates down arm, pain in the back of the neck, severe shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow

    Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow is the compression of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness and/or weakness in the hands.

    Mild symptoms resolve on their own, severe disease resolves with surgery

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand, pain in one elbow, pain in one forearm
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.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
  5. 5.Chronic Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy

    Nerve damage in the limbs can be caused by diabetes, toxic substances, immune system issues and low vitamin levels. However, in about one of every four cases no cause can be found and then the condition is called 'idiopathic'. Symptoms of nerve damage can be (burning) pain sensations, numbness, tingling and weakness in hands, feet or lower legs.

    This is a chronic condition.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Hand Numbness Checker

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

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  6. 6.Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

    Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is the compression of the nerves and/or blood vessels that run through the upper chest. It can occur as a result of trauma, surgery, growths in the body, or just randomly.

    Resolves with treatment (30% relapse)

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, arm weakness, arm numbness, pain in one shoulder blade
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Low Calcium Level

    Hypocalcemia is a condition where there is not enough calcium in the blood. Calcium is a mineral contained in the blood, which helps the heart and other muscles function properly, and is needed to maintain strong teeth and bones.

    Problem should go away with home care within weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, general numbness, tingling foot
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.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
  9. 9.Brachial Plexopathy (Shoulder Nerve Issue)

    The brachial plexus is a complex nerve network located in the upper chest and shoulder region. Nerves can be explained as 'electric wires' of the body, passing through signals from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that lies deep to the collar bone, which supplies the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand. When this bundle of nerves is (partially) damaged, one speaks of a 'plexopathy'. Several causes of damage can be injury or forceful trauma, inflammation or infection. A commonly known cause is sports injury in contact sports like football and rugby. Symptoms can include pain, burning, numbness and weakness in the shoulder and arm on one side, sometimes shooting through the arm to the hand. An acute (sports) injury that causes this condition is often called 'burners' or 'stingers' because of the burning and stinging type of pain. When the cause is inflammation of the nerves, it is often called the Parsonage-Turner syndrome.

    The severity of this condition is highly variable, and dependent on the amount of damage caused to the nerves. Brachial plexus injury following surgery usually has a good prognosis. Recovery times range from 2 weeks to 2 years.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain
    Symptoms that never occur with brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue):
    pain in the front middle part of the neck
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Vitamin B12 is a vitamin crucial to healthy neurological and cardiovascular functioning. If deficient, symptoms include trouble thinking, anxiety, stomach issues, and weakness.

    Symptoms resolve completely when B12 levels return to normal.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, history of headaches, racing heart beat
    Symptoms that never occur with vitamin b12 deficiency:
    menstrual period changes
    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.What is your body mass?
  • 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.Have someone feel for your pulse (at the wrist) on the side of your body that hurts. Now, turn your head to that side. Does the pulse go away? (This is known as the Adson's test.)

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

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Hand Numbness Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced hand numbness have also experienced:

    • 4% Pain in One Shoulder
    • 4% Hand Tingling
    • 2% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced hand numbness had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Less Than a Day
    • 24% Over a Month
    • 16% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced hand numbness were most often matched with:

    • 33% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • 33% Pinched Nerve in the Neck
    • 33% Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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