Why is My Hand Numb?

Why is My Hand Numb?

You have a troubling symptom: Part of your hand is numb. It comes and goes and may be accompanied by pain and weakness that extends to the arm. Your symptoms are a signal that an area of your musculoskeletal system is not functioning properly. 

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons with Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow are the experts to see for musculoskeletal problems if you’re near any of our offices in Atlanta, Marietta, and Watkinsville, Georgia. Our hand surgeons use the latest tests to diagnose your hand condition and develop a customized treatment plan to get you on the road to recovery. 

Following are common conditions that affect the hand and can cause numbness

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness as well as pain, a burning sensation, and/or tingling in parts of the hand and arm. It occurs when a key nerve in your hand, the median nerve, is compressed as it travels through a narrow passageway in your wrist, the carpal tunnel. The nerve controls feeling on the side of your hand with your thumb and your first three fingers. 

Repetitive activities such as typing on a small keyboard or stressing the wrists when operating machinery may cause compression of the median nerve and result in carpal tunnel. Early treatment including rest, medication, a splint, physical therapy, and ergonomic changes in activities can ameliorate the syndrome. For example, if your symptoms are worse from typing on a small keyboard, you can change to a split or curved keyboard that lessens pressure on your wrists, hands, and fingers. 

Carpal tunnel worsens over time and can result in nerve damage with even more painful symptoms if untreated. If carpal tunnel progresses, your surgeon can perform a simple operation to widen the tunnel and ease pressure on the nerve.  

Cubital tunnel syndrome 

Cubital tunnel syndrome, like carpal tunnel syndrome, occurs when a nerve becomes compressed or inflamed. This time, it’s the ulnar nerve, a long nerve that extends from your neck to your hand. You may feel numbness in your ring and little finger. 

Compression can occur when the nerve moves through tissue (the cubital tunnel) past the bony bump on the inside of your elbow; you know the bone as your funny bone. 

How did your ulnar nerve become compressed? If you engage in sports in which you bend your elbow repetitively, like tennis or golf, or bend your elbow repeatedly when operating a machine at work or lifting or pulling objects in a warehouse, you’re placing pressure on the nerve, which can result in the syndrome. Arthritis or bone spurs can also cause it. 

Rest, pain medication, and ice help relieve symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe a splint or foam brace you wear at night to keep the elbow straight and/or have you  wear an elbow pad over the elbow during the day. If compression causes weakness in your muscles, your doctor may recommend surgery to place the nerve under a muscle or in a layer of fat.  

Arthritis 

Arthritis can cause numbness, a burning sensation, or tingling in your hand. Joint inflammation can compress the nerves, leading to your symptoms. 

Bone spurs can develop in the wrist if you have osteoarthritis. The arthritis can then lead to carpal tunnel as a secondary condition. 

You need to rest the joint. Pain medication can ease the symptoms. If you’re in severe pain, your doctor may give you a cortisone shot to reduce the inflammation. Physical therapy can help you to regain motion and strength. Depending on the spur, you may need surgery to remove some of the bone.  

If you’re experiencing numbness in your hands or any other musculoskeletal issues with your hands, shoulders, or elbows, call Georgia Hand Shoulder & Elbow or book an appointment online for expert treatment. 

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