Did you know that 1% of the population has carpal tunnel syndrome? Many people experiencing this condition report tingling or numbness in their hands. However, while carpal tunnel syndrome is typically the most common reason for numbness in hands, it’s by no means the only explanation.
The reality is that a variety of hand, wrist, and elbow conditions have hand numbness as one of their symptoms. So how do you find out what’s causing your specific numbness? Simple: by reading this article!
We’ve organized a complete guide of the conditions that come with this symptom. That way, you can help a medical professional diagnose it as soon as possible. Let’s get started!
When Is Numbness in the Hands Serious?
At some point or another, everyone experiences some numbness or tingling in their hands. Think about the last time your foot or hand fell asleep. Most of the time this is due to external factors like temperature, temporary pressure on a nerve, or simple stress.
In most cases, it goes away on its own after a few minutes or hours. However, there’s a difference between temporary numbness and tingling and the long term. If the symptoms don’t go away, then it’s time to see a medical professional.
The Common Causes of Numbness in Hands
Persistent numbness in the hands is usually caused by long-term compression, irritation, or damage to the nerves. There are a variety of nerves running throughout hands, wrists, and elbows. As such, numbness can affect one of them or whole clusters.
Typically, this type of symptoms related directly to the hand, wrist, or elbow affects this condition. However, diseases like diabetes, which affect the peripheral nerves, can also cause it.
In rare cases, it’s associated with brain and spinal cord conditions. It’s also a common sign of stroke and tumors. However, in these cases, it’s rarely the only symptom present. To help you determine the cause of the numbness in your hand, we’ve organized a list of the common causes.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As we mentioned before, the carpal tunnel affects a large portion of the population. As such, it’s one of the most common causes of numbness and tingling in the hand. The term carpal tunnel refers to a passageway between your bones and ligaments on the flat side of your wrist.
The small passageway contains your flexor tendons and the median nerve. When irritated tendons cause this passageway to thicken, it places pressure on this nerve. The result is a pinched nerve that causes a tingling sensation and numbness in the wrist.
In addition to this numbness, you may notice pain in your wrist at night or when flexing at a downward angle. Most of the time carpal tunnel syndrome is due to overuse. Repetitive motion over time can cause it around. Since computer work is often associated with these types of repetition it often affects people who work on it all day.
The good news is that the condition is treatable. The amount of therapy and potential surgery depends on the severity of the condition. Factors like the amount of pressure placed on the median nerve and the amount of time without treatment can result in more serious symptoms.
Ultimately, it’s better to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome than treat it. If you work at a job that requires repetition in your wrist, then make sure you follow this advice.
Tendonitis occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed due to small tears. Often this condition comes from repetitive motion caused by sports like tennis, golf, and baseball. Tendonitis comes with many of the same symptoms as carpal tunnel syndrome. However, there are important distinctions between them.
Carpal tunnel deals with the compression of a nerve, while tendonitis deals with irritation of the thick, fibrous cord connecting muscle to bone. So how can you tell the difference between carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis? By seeing if there’s numbness in your pinky.
The median nerve that causes carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t extend to the pinky. So, if you experience numbness there, then the cause is likely tendonitis.
Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop along with the tendons and joints of your hands and wrists. They occur when the wrist joints are under stress and produce excessive amounts of fluid. Most types of ganglion cysts are completely benign and harmless.
As such, they don’t necessarily need to be removed unless they’re painful. In fact, in some cases, they even go away on their own. However, if these cysts press against a nerve, then they can quickly turn painful.
You can identify this condition by looking for a mass or bump around your wrist. This bump can be small (pea-sized) or large (2.5 inches). Most of the time your physician can treat a ganglion cyst by draining it. If it stays around, surgically removing it is also an option.
Lateral epicondylitis is one of the most common causes of elbow pain. This condition, also known as tennis elbow, targets the top side of the forearm that’s near the elbow. Specifically, it affects the extensor tendons used to open and close your fingers.
Repetitive movements in the wrist and arm can overload this tendon causing inflammation. As such, activities — like the repeated swing of a tennis racket — can produce the small tears that cause this condition. The symptoms of this condition typically include weakness in the forearm, pain when grasping items, and persistent discomfort in the upper forearm.
Because the extensor tendon connects to the fingers it can also cause a tingling and numbing sensation in your digits. Typically, it’s best to start with non-surgical options when treating lateral epicondylitis.
This can include things like rest, various forms of therapy, medication, and a brace. However, if the symptoms persist, then you may need to turn to surgery.
Like carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar neuropathy is a result of extra pressure placed on a nerve. However, in this case, it’s the ulnar nerve instead of the median nerve. This nerve runs down the neck through the elbow and into the hand.
When the ulnar nerve becomes entrapped it can distort the sensory feeling at various points in the arm. If entrapment occurs at the elbow, then it’s referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome. If entrapment occurs at the wrist, then it’s referred to as ulnar tunnel syndrome.
Ulnar neuropathy shares similar symptoms with carpal tunnel syndrome. It causes pain in the forearm, numbness in the fingers, hand weakness, and sore elbows. However, you can differentiate it by paying attention to which fingers are affected.
If you’re little finger and half of your ring finger are numb, then it’s likely related to ulnar neuropathy. Treatment for ulnar neuropathy starts with medication and physical therapy. However, if it gets worse, then it can be treated with the same no-stitch, non-invasive surgery method used on carpel tunnel syndrome.
Over 34.2 million Americans suffer from some form of diabetes. Unfortunately, in addition to other health problems, diabetes can also cause nerve damage. This type of nerve damage is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. It can affect a variety of different systems, from autonomic to focal.
However, the specific neuropathy that affects our hands is referred to as peripheral neuropathy. This type of nerve damage attacks the different limbs. It usually starts in the feet and legs, before moving on to the arms and hands.
It’s characterized by numbness, tingling sensations, heightened sensitivity to pain, and cramps. In some cases, it can even cause carpal tunnel syndrome. The best solution to diabetic neuropathy is proper blood sugar management.
However, if conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome arise due to diabetic neuropathy, then they can be treated using non-invasive surgeries.
Raynaud’s disease causes the smaller arteries in your hands and feet to narrow. This results in little blood flow to these areas. As a result, during cold weather and stress, your fingers and toes feel numb. In addition to numbness, you may also notice things like color changes in your skin.
When blood flow slows down the skin turns a pale, white color. When it stops altogether the skin turns light blue since the deoxygenated blood pools up in the hand. Women are nine times more likely to be affected by Raynaud’s disease, so sex does play an important factor.
This condition ranges in its seriousness, however, typically it can be dealt with by using simple precautions. This includes things like bundling up your hands and feet when traveling in outdoor weather. If it’s cold in your house, then make sure you wear thick socks to protect yourself.
If the symptoms persist or get worse, then you can try a combination of therapy and medications to see if any changes occur. The final solution is surgery performed on the outer layer of arteries to increase blood flow.
How Do You Find Out Which Hand Numbness Condition You Have?
We advise against trying to diagnose your hand condition. Unless you have a medical degree, then all it will cause is an unnecessary worry. However, it’s a good idea to have an idea of the symptoms you’re experiencing, and learning about the common causes can help.
So how do you find out what’s causing the numbness? Simple: by visiting a hand specialist that’s properly trained. Once you arrive at the appointment, the physician will ask you questions about your symptoms and health history.
They’ll also go into some of your lifestyle choices and any past injuries or conditions that may be affecting the hand. In some cases, the cause of the problem can be identified quickly.
In other instances, you may need to undergo a series of tests to identify the problem. Once the condition has been identified, you can begin treatment options.
Treatment Options For Hand Numbness
The specific treatment depends on the type of condition, so no one treatment option will work for everyone. However, in the case of a pinched nerve or arthritis treatment is generally fairly simple. Typically it involves a combination of cold and heat therapy. On top of this, rest, light exercise, and physical therapy can also be helpful.
Unfortunately, entrapped nerves, like those involved with carpal tunnel, require a more advanced release procedure. In most cases, a ligament must be removed to create the needed space for the nerve.
Traditional methods typically involve making an invasive incision near the carpal tunnel. However, a large incision can be bypassed with a more advanced “no-stitch” option. This method of treatment uses minimally invasive incisions to insert a small endoscopic camera into your hand.
This method is ideal because it bypasses the upper layers of ligaments and gets right to the deeper ones causing pressure. It’s quick, provides fast recovery, and leaves behind no stitches.
Need Help With Your Hand Numbness? Contact Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas
We hope this article helped you find out some of the different causes of numbness in hands. Ultimately, only a professional is capable of diagnosing and treating the cause of your hand numbness. And, unfortunately, the longer you put it off, the worse the condition can get.
So how do you find a physician you can trust? If you live in the Houston area, then look no further than the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas. This team of four experienced physicians specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hand, wrist, and elbow problems.
What’s more, they offer some of the most advanced, non-invasive medical techniques available. As such, you won’t need to worry about potentially dangerous and costly surgeries. If you ready to get the care you deserve, then schedule your appointment today.