Numbness in hands occurs when there is a loss of feeling in the hands. Accompanying symptoms include sharp pain, tingling/burning sensation, and weakness. Numbness in hand usually occurs due to continuous pressure on the nerve or blood vessel in the arm, wrist or fingers. It is often related to carpal tunnel syndrome, which involves pressure on the median nerve passing in the area of the carpal tunnel. It may also be associated with diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or poor circulation.
What Causes Numbness in Hands?
Before treating numbness in hands, you need to know what caused your symptoms. There’re many possible causes that lead to numb hands, which are more common than others.
1. Common Causes
- Nerve entrapment. Numbness in hands may be due to radial nerve palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, peroneal nerve palsy, and ulnar nerve palsy.
- Diabetes. This is one of the most common causes of numbness due to nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy). Symptoms like tingling often develop initially in the feet, then the legs, and finally, the arms and hands.
- Injury. Trauma may cause compression, crushing or damaging of nerves, resulting in numbness or pain. Examples include bone fracture or dislocation of a joint, leading to nerve compression.
- Infections. Viral infections such as shingles (varicella-zoster), Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, HIV/AIDS, and Lyme disease may cause nerve damage.
- Vitamin deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies may affect nerve function. For example, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, which causes peripheral neuropathy.
- Alcoholism. Alcoholic neuropathy is associated nerve damage while alcoholism leads to vitamin deficiencies that can cause peripheral neuropathy.
2. Other Possible Causes
- Toxins. Heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury,lead, and thallium as well as other environmental chemicals and some medications may affect nerve function.
- Systemic diseases. Diseases that may lead to numbness in hands include liver disease, kidney disorders, vascular conditions, blood diseases, connective tissue disorders, and amyloidosis. Other conditions such as hormonal imbalances, chronic inflammation, benign tumors and cancers may also be involved.
- Autoimmune diseases. Guillain-Barre syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases may destroy nerves.
- Inherited disorders. These include a group of genetic disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease that may cause numbness.
- Idiopathic. In some cases, the cause of numbness is unknown (idiopathic).
What to Do If the Numbness in Hands Is Mild
In most cases, numbness in hand is mild and discomfort may be relieved by simple home remedies. Try these therapies at home:
1. Stretch and Massage
Stretch and massage your hands to improve blood flow to the affected area and to relieve compression of the nerve. This works well if you do these as soon as you begin to feel numbness in hands. It also helps if you get up and move around.
Here are some great hand exercises to improve flexibility and strength: Hand Exercises
2. Apply a Compress
Applying a warm compress may improve blood supply to a numb hand. If the numbness gets worse, remove the warm pack and apply a cold compress to reduce the swelling. Apply ice to the wrist or hand twice a day and exercise the joint by doing stretches and curls.
3. Take Needed Vitamins
Taking over-the-counter vitamin supplements such as vitamin E and B vitamins can improve vitamin deficiencies. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds in your diet.
4. Other Helpful Tips
- Loosen tight clothing or shoes.
- Shake your wrists if you have been working with your hands for a long time.
- Avoid lifting heavy weights and doing repetitive movements involving your hands. Take regular breaks, avoid poor posture, and consider doing Pilates or yoga.
- If you have diabetes, control blood sugar levels with proper diet, medications and regular check-ups.
- Avoid taking excess alcohol.
- Consult your doctor about medications that may cause numbness in hands. However, do not stop taking or change your medicines without talking with your doctor first.
- Protect your hand because numbness can decrease feeling in the hand, which can put you at risk for accidents and injury such as bumps, cuts, bruises, or burns.
What to Do If the Numbness in Hands Persists or Spreads
It is important to know exactly what is causing numbness in your hands. If your symptoms persist or affect other parts of your body, seek medical help. Proper treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Get medical help immediately or call 911 if your numbness in hand begins abruptly, especially if it is accompanied by paralysis, weakness, confusion, dizziness, difficulty talking, or acute, severe headache. These may be symptoms of a serious condition, such as a stroke.
Make an appointment with your doctor if your numbness:
- Begins gradually and worsens or persists
- Affects both sides of your body
- Spreads to other parts of your body
- Comes and goes
- Affects only a finger or part of your hand
- Occurs when performing certain activities, especially repetitive motions