Arm and Hand Numbness and Tingling
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and can’t feel your arm or hand? Have you ever experienced shooting pains down your arm or a tingling sensation in your hand when you reach for something?
Both of these scenarios involve numbness or tingling in the upper extremity, but differ substantially.
Before we explore what causes these problems, we must first define some medical terms that people often confuse or use incorrectly.
True numbness is the lack of sensation. If you have numbness, it means you literally cannot feel a portion of your skin or body part.
This is the partial loss of sensation in a body area. You can sense touch or pain, but not as well as other areas.
Paresthesia is an abnormal sensation such as feeling hot when no heat source is present. Tingling, feeling bugs crawling or a prickly sensation are examples of paresthesia.
An increased or heightened sensation of touch or pain is called hyperesthesia.
Two Most Common Sources of Arm and Hand Numbness and Tingling
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
A heaviness, weakness and loss of feeling (numbness) in an arm and hand, especially when lying down is often caused by a blockage of nerve and blood flow in the space between your neck and shoulder. Most commonly caused by tightened muscles in the front and side of the neck, TOS affects women more frequently than men and can occur spontaneously. The sensation usually does not occur while sitting or standing. A differentiation of TOS from other causes of hand tingling or numbness such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), is that in TOS, the pinky is often involved and cannot be in CTS.
Pain, paresthesias and weakness of the arm and/or hand may be caused by irritation/inflammation of nerves rooted in the neck. The nerve interference may stem from misalignment of the spinal bones, compressive injury to the neck, stretching/traction injury of the arm and/or neck, or disc bulges and/or herniations. A loss of reflexes and or muscle strength commonly occurs in radiculitis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
The carpal tunnel is a space between the bones of the wrist and a flat band of ligament-like tissue holding the tendons, blood vessels and nerves that supply the hand. Due to overuse or injury a specific nerve (Median Nerve) is irritated or compressed resulting in wrist and/or hand pain, shooting pain, tingling and sometimes actual numbness. This differs from radiculitis because it affects a single nerve and not the nerve root in the spine. CTS cannot involve the pinky as the median nerve does not supply that part of the hand.
Arm and hand pain and tingling can come from a variety of sources, locating the cause of the problem will then lead to the correct treatments to resolve your condition. Each condition must be properly diagnosed and specific treatments applied to provide you with lasting arm and hand pain relief.