What is Hand Numbness?
Having normal sensation in your hand is extremely important for all aspects of life. If part or all of your hand becomes numb and lacks sensation then use of your hand will become difficult and uncomfortable. Even holding a fork or pen can be a challenge. Sensation relies on nerves to work properly, and if there is a problem with the nerves then numbness can result.
Numbness in your hand can be defined as an abnormal feeling when you touch something with your fingers or even at rest. The intensity and frequency can vary widely. Pain can sometimes accompany the numbness.
Hand Numbness Symptoms and Signs
Hand Numbness might be felt by different people differently. Generally, the numbness will cause an abnormal feeling different from what is usually felt. The abnormal feeling may manifest as though the hand is falling asleep, or involve tingling, burning, and pins and needles.
The hand numbness may be constant or occur intermittently. If the numbness started after a laceration or cut to your skin, then a nerve might have been directly injured and that will generally cause a constant numb feeling. If the numbness started without a traumatic event then a nerve compression problem, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may be the cause and the symptoms can be intermittent.
Causes of Hand Numbness
The development of numbness in the thumb, index, middle and/or ring fingers gradually over time often is due to carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition is caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist. The symptoms can start as intermittent and mild, but progress to constant and more severe as the condition worsens. Weakness of the hand is also possible in more advanced cases.
Cutting the skin with a knife, broken glass, or other sharp object may also cause a cut in one or more of the nerves in your hand. This generally will result in a persistent abnormal feeling in part or all of a finger or multiple fingers, depending on where in the hand the laceration occurred. Whether a part or all of a nerve has been cut will also affect the nature of the numbness that is felt. This type of injury should receive urgent evaluation to arrive at a precise diagnosis, as prompt treatment is associated with more optimal outcomes.
The development of numbness in the little finger and sometimes part of the ring finger is often due to cubital tunnel syndrome. This condition is caused by compression of the ulnar nerve at the inside of the elbow at the “funny bone”. The numbness can start without a traumatic event and linger over time or progressively get worse. Weakness of the hand is also possible in more advanced cases.
Numbness in the hand can be caused by nerve irritation and compression in the neck where nerves are leaving the spinal cord and beginning their path down an arm. Even though the site of the problem is in the neck, the symptoms may sometimes only be felt in the hand. A careful physical exam by a hand specialist can help differentiate this condition from carpal tunnel syndrome for example.
Getting a Diagnosis for your Hand Numbness
If you are experiencing numbness in your hand, a consultation with a hand surgeon will pinpoint the cause of the abnormal sensation. By carefully listening to your symptoms, and performing a comprehensive physical exam the diagnosis can be established. You may be referred for electrodiagnostic testing (“EMG”), which is a test done by a neurologist, to gain further insight into the diagnosis of conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome.
Treatment Options for Hand Numbness
At HandSport Surgery Institute surgery is the last resort for our patients. Instead, we prefer to work closely with our patients to alleviate their symptoms and address any injuries starting with conservative treatment when possible.
Some treatment options may include splinting, hand/occupational therapy, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and ergonomic modifications. Surgery may be of benefit in certain unresponsive cases. In order to determine the treatment plan that will work best for you, you will need to be fully evaluated during a consultation.
If You Believe You Are Experiencing Hand Numbness
Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pruzansky, and our talented team will facilitate the process. Call 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start a treatment process that will optimize the sensation in your hand.