Symptoms A-Z

Why Does Hand Tingling Occur? Learn About Common Causes & Treatment

Numbness and tingling in the hands are also associated with the sensation of "pins and needles" or hands "falling asleep". Tingly hands are most commonly caused by damaged or pinched nerves in the hand, vascular damage, or strain from everyday use. Read below for information on related symptoms, other causes, and treatment options.

This symptom can also be referred to as: pins and needles sensation in the hand

An image depicting a person suffering from hand tingling symptoms

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 9 Possible Hand Tingling Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  6. Statistics

Tingling in the Hands Explained

Hand tingling refers to the annoying, almost shock-like sensation that can travel all through the hands and fingers and sometimes up the arms to the neck or jaw. Some causes are quite benign and harmless, but with others, the tingling can be a warning sign of conditions in need of treatment.

Tingling in the hand, or elsewhere in the body, is sometimes called a "pins-and-needles sensation" or "falling asleep" of the hand.

Common characteristics of hand tingling are

It's likely to experience the following.

  • A prickly, pins-and-needles sensation in the hand and fingers: This often extends up the arm to the neck and shoulder.
  • Unilateral or bilateral: One or both hands may be affected.
  • Numbness
  • Burning pain
  • Stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Weakness
  • Tightness in the forearm muscles

Who is most often affected by hand tingling symptoms

The following people are more likely to experience hand tingling.

  • Desk workers: Or people who sit using a keyboard and mouse for several hours each day.
  • Anyone with damage to the nerves and/or the circulatory system

Are hand tingling symptoms serious?

The severity of hand tingling is ultimately dependent on the cause.

  • Not serious: A mild case of tingling, especially on waking up in the morning or that resolves quickly, is not serious.
  • Moderately serious: A more persistent case that begins gradually is a concern. Continued nerve damage can lead to permanent numbness and loss of sensation in the hands.
  • Serious: Tingling in only the left hand can be a warning of a heart attack, especially if the tingling begins suddenly and extends up the arm and into the jaw.

What Causes Numbness and Tingling in the Hands?

Most common hand tingling cause types

Hand tingling is most likely to occur due to the following.

  • Trauma: Direct trauma such as fractures, dislocations, strains, and sprains.
  • Anatomic abnormalities
  • Nerve damage: Compression or entrapment of the nerves affecting the hand, including those in the cervical spine (the neck) can lead to hand tingling. A pinched nerve is when the nerve is caught under or between bone, cartilage, tendons, or muscles and is under pressure. This may be due to injury, repetitive use, or just sleeping in "wrong" position. Poor posture, especially when sitting in front of a computer screen for long hours can result in hand tingling. Stress and anxiety may cause subconscious tensing of muscles to the point of nerve or circulatory damage. Neurologic diseases or a tumor or carcinoma can also result in hand tingling.
  • Vascular (blood vessel) damage: This is any condition affecting the radial and ulnar arteries, which supply blood to the hand. Hardening of the arteries slows and blocks circulation, as well as inflammation of the arteries. Dehydration is another cause that can impact the vessels. Frostbite causes severe constriction of the blood vessels. Poor circulation can occur due to lack of exercise, and circulation can even be impaired by tight clothing.

Less common hand tingling cause types

Less common causes of hand tingling include the following.

  • Autoimmune disorders: An autoimmune response to a viral illness, with hand tingling symptoms occurring after the illness seems to be over. Almost any active autoimmune disorder can cause chronic inflammation.
  • Metabolic disorders: These interfere with nerve functioning, such as thyroid disease and other endocrine diseases.

Rare and unusual hand tingling cause types

Causes of hand tingling that are more rare include the following.

  • Pregnancy: This is due to swelling that may compress the nerves in the wrists especially when lying down.
  • Certain viral infections
  • Toxins: Ingesting of metals (through supplements or work exposure), antiretroviral drugs, and chemotherapy are all likely toxins.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Lack of certain B vitamins in the diet causes a form of anemia and neuropathy. Alcoholism is a cause of B vitamin deficiency and neuropathy.

9 Possible Hand Tingling Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced hand tingling. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by compression of the mediannerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel. Causes include overuse of the wrist and hand, especially highly repetitive activities such as typing or wo...

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Ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow

Ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow is also called cubital tunnel syndrome. The ulnar nerve begins at the spinal cord in the neck and runs down the arm into the hand. This very long nerve can become compressed, or entrapped, by other structures at certain points along the way. Entrapment often happens in the cubital tunnel, which is the narrow passage at the inside of the elbow.

The exact cause for entrapment may not be known. Fluid buildup and swelling inside the elbow; previous elbow fracture or dislocation; or leaning on the elbow for long periods of time can put pressure on the ulnar nerve inside the cubital tunnel.

Symptoms include numbness and tingling of the hand and fingers, sometimes leading to weakness and even muscle wasting in the hand.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, x-ray, and nerve conduction studies.

Treatment begins with wearing a supportive brace and adjusting activities to avoid further irritating the nerve. Surgery is usually not needed unless the nerve compression is causing weakness and loss of use in the hand.

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

Pinched nerve in the neck

A pinched nerve in the neck is also called cervical radiculopathy. It means that a nerve in the neck, at a point where it branches off from the spinal cord, is being compressed by the surrounding bones, muscles, or other tissues.

It can be caused by a traumatic injury, such as from sports or an automobile accident, especially if the injury results in a herniated disk. It may also arise from the normal wear and tear of aging.

Symptoms include sharp, burning pain with numbness and tingling from the neck to the shoulder, as well as weakness and numbness into the arm and hand.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple neurological tests to check the reflexes. Imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be done, as well as electromyography to measure nerve impulses in the muscles.

A pinched nerve in the neck often improves with simply a few days or weeks of rest. Physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid injections into the spine can all be very helpful.

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

Panic or anxiety attack(s)

Panic or anxiety attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or stress without true danger. Symptoms usually peak and then decrease within minutes. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart. A panic attack can be a very scary experience and should be taken seriously.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms:

Symptoms that always occur with panic or anxiety attack(s): anxiety or anxiety/panic attacks

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Hand Tingling Symptom Checker

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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.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, general numbness, tingling foot

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known, and chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.

The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.

Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet; difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity; and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.

Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests to rule out other conditions; and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.

Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Vitamin b12 deficiency

B12 is an essential vitamin for the production of myelin, a compound that speeds up the conduction of nerve impulses, and the production of red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. It only occurs naturally in diets containing animal byproducts.

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Compartment syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome describes the damage done to certain muscle groups of the arms or legs after a traumatic injury.

All of the long muscles are bundled into sections – "compartments" – by the white sheets of strong, tough connective tissue called fascia. If something interferes with circulation so that blood flow is trapped within the compartment, pressure rises because the fascia cannot stretch. This causes serious damage to the muscles and other tissues within the compartment.

Acute compartment syndrome is caused by a broken bone; a crush injury; burns, due to scarred and tightened skin; and bandages or casts applied before an injury has stopped swelling.

Symptoms can rapidly intensify. They include severe pain and tightness in the muscle; tingling or burning sensation; and sometimes numbness and weakness.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency which can result in loss of the limb. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination.

Treatment involves hospitalization for emergency surgery and, in some cases, skin graft.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Thoracic outlet syndrome

The "thoracic outlet" is the space on either side of the base of the neck where nerves, arteries, and veins travel beneath the collarbone. If these become compressed or damaged, the condition is called thoracic outlet syndrome or TOS.

The most common causes are trauma, such as a car accident or fall; and repetition or overuse, such as a sports injury.

Symptoms vary depending on the structures being compressed:

  • Neurogenic TOS affects the nerves. It is the most common form and creates numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the arms, hand, and fingers.
  • Vascular TOS affects the arteries and veins. It creates the same symptoms as neurogenic TOS as well as cold, pale hands and arms with weak pulse.

It is important to see a medical provider about these symptoms so that the damage does not become permanent.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, imaging such as x-ray or ultrasound, and sometimes nerve conduction and blood flow studies.

Treatment involves physical therapy, pain relievers, and sometimes surgery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, arm weakness, arm numbness, pain in one shoulder blade

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Treatment for Numb,Tingling Hands

When hand tingling is an emergency

Seek immediate hand tingling treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You experience sudden tingling in only the left hand: Hypertension and heart attack may cause this.
  • You experience stroke symptoms: This includes numbness and tingling in the hands, arms, and face, along with dizziness, headache, blurred vision, and slurred speech. These are symptoms of transient ischemic attack, or "mini-stroke." This is usually a warning sign of impending stroke and should be seen immediately.

When to see a doctor

Schedule an appointment if:

  • The hand tingling comes on gradually and persists for days or weeks
  • Physical therapy: You would like to try physical therapy to relieve the pressure on a trapped or pinched nerve.
  • Alternative therapies: You would like to try acupuncture and therapeutic massage to ease pain and improve circulation.

At-home treatment for hand tingling

Hand tingling remedies that you can try at home include the following.

  • Rest
  • Pain medication: Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease pain, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
  • Use supportive devices: Use splinting or padding to ease pressure on the most affected spots during the activity that causes pain.
  • Wear a brace: One that keeps the wrist straight while you are sleeping
  • Make adjustments: Such as in work stations and in techniques used for weightlifting or other sports
  • Make lifestyle changes: Changes in exercise, sleep, diet, and stress management can improve overall fitness and circulation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Hand Tingling

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • What is your body mass?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • 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.)
  • 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.)

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your hand tingling

Hand Tingling Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced hand tingling have also experienced:

  • 5% Tingling Foot
  • 4% Tingling Forearm
  • 4% Upper Arm Tingling

People who have experienced hand tingling were most often matched with:

  • 33% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • 33% Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Of Elbow
  • 33% Pinched Nerve In The Neck

People who have experienced hand tingling had symptoms persist for:

  • 43% Less than a day
  • 24% Over a month
  • 16% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Hand Tingling Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your hand tingling

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.