Whether it’s happening when you’re sleeping or just sitting on the couch in front of the TV, your first reaction is to shake your hand to regain the feeling or remove the pins and needles. It helps improve blood flow to the nerve, but relieving pressure from a sleeping position or sitting on the couch usually allows the sensation to return. You can also try clenching and then unclenching your fist. This technique can improve blood flow to your hands and weaken nerves, relieving you of the feeling of pins and needles.
This numbness happens when you least expect it: one minute – your hand works as usual, then it is partially numb and floppy. It seems you are being pricked with pins and needles. In other words, your hand has fallen asleep. The medical term for this is paresthesia, which occurs when pressure is applied to the nerve supplying the limb. The most common reason our arm falls asleep is that we lie on it flexibly while sleeping; this causes blood flow to the nerve to stop, which in turn causes a numbness or tingling sensation.
Causes of Pins and Needles
Numbness is usually felt in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. If you feel numbness in your little finger and/or ring finger, it is usually due to:
- Excessive elbow flexion during sleep causes constriction and decreased blood flow to the ulnar nerve.
- Although all variants of hand numbness are associated with impaired conduction of impulses, not every tingling sensation in the hands indicates that a person has a serious illness.
- In the meantime, if your entire arm is numb, it means that you slept on your shoulder “wrong,” reducing blood flow to several nerves in your arm, or your neck was in a strange position, affecting the nerves running directly from the spine. At this point, your hand may feel a tingling sensation – a needle sensation – or just numbness.
The causes of hand numbness are temporary and chronic.
Temporary Numbness of the Hands
Everyone has experienced this harmless state at least once in their life. The sensation is associated with a temporary decrease in the blood supply to the nerves that provide sensitivity to the hands, such as the median or ulnar.
As a result, the nervous system deprived of oxygen loses some information, and the rest is transmitted to the brain with distortions – a person perceives this as numbness and tingling. But once the pressure on the arm stops, the temporary numbness goes away. In this case, no treatment is required.
- Temporary numbness of the hands can be “earned” if, for example, you fall asleep with your arm bent under your head. It is enough to stretch and massage the limb to get rid of unpleasant sensations.
- Another common cause of temporary hand numbness is sitting at a computer. If the numbness recurs frequently, it may be due to overstraining some of the neck’s deep muscles. When overstrained muscles are shortened, blood vessels and nerves compress. If taking a break during the day to warm up and exercise does not help, you should consult your doctor.
Chronic Hand Numbness
This condition is less common than temporary numbness, lasts longer, and does not go away if the hand is stretched or massaged.
- Damage or pinching of the nervous system. Nerves can be damaged from a broken arm or carpal tunnel syndrome – when the hand becomes numb, and the thumb weakens. The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are not fully understood. It is believed that the problem can arise due to hormonal changes in women, rheumatoid arthritis, or regular excessive stress on the wrist, due to which the median nerve, which provides hand sensitivity, suffers.
- Cervical spondylosis can cause hand numbness in people over the age of 60. This condition is part of the normal aging process, in which the neck’s cervical vertebrae and intervertebral discs gradually wear out; this can pinch the nerves in the hands and cause numbness.
- Vitamin B12 (folic acid) deficiency. Its deficiency can be encountered by vegetarians, the elderly, patients with diabetes mellitus, and people with pernicious anemia. Lack of vitamins leads, among other things, to nerve damage, so it is crucial to eat a balanced diet. Vitamin B12 is only in foods of animal origin, so vegetarians usually have to take vitamin pills.
- Chronic diseases. The most common disease in which there is a risk of causing peripheral neuropathy is type 2 diabetes. The longest nerves are the first to suffer. So numbness usually occurs in the legs and arms. If numbness is indeed associated with type 2 diabetes, the patient should see a doctor as soon as possible to adjust treatment and lifestyle choices. Otherwise, the symptoms may worsen and lead to complications during the underlying disease.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which the immune and nervous system destroys its peripheral nerves and can cause peripheral neuropathy. If a person feels numbness and weakness in the legs, especially after a cold or other infection, it is imperative to see a doctor. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a completely curable disease, but if not diagnosed on time, it can lead to serious consequences and even death.
- Hereditary diseases, for example, the rare Raynaud’s disease, which is more common in women aged 15-30 living in cold climates. In this condition, in response to cold, vasospasm occurs, so the skin turns white. Also, the nerves cease to be supplied with blood normally, so the fingers become numb. Raynaud’s disease is treated only in the most severe cases. To avoid an attack, it is enough to wear warm mittens or gloves to avoid hypothermia.
- Neurological diseases of the central nervous system. Hand numbness is one of the symptoms of stroke, multiple sclerosis, and even migraines.
- Exposure to drugs. Certain chemotherapy drugs, antiretroviral drugs used to control HIV, some antibiotics, and the antiparasitic drug metronidazole can cause damage to the nervous system. Fortunately, in most cases, it is sufficient to adjust the dosage or change the medication to restore normal nerve sensitivity.
How to Treat and Prevent Pins and Needles
Some simple techniques may help relieve temporary pins and needles:
- go away faster;
- raise your arms up;
- and then bend and unbend your fingers until sensitivity returns. If finger numbness persists, see a doctor.
When hands are often numb, there is a universal drug treatment (venotonics, B vitamins, vascular drugs), but it is not very effective in most cases.
Local treatment is most effective:
- shock wave therapy – stimulates blood flow in the area of nerve compression;
- injection of an anti-inflammatory drug (Diprospan, Flosteron) into the nerve compression zone;
- electromyostimulation – with the development of muscle weakness.
Among the drugs, the most popular are:
- selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (indomethacin, ibuprofen, celecoxib). They are used mainly to relieve exacerbations of the disease;
- chondroprotectors – to improve the regeneration of the intervertebral disc, consisting of cartilage tissue.
If this does not help, the blockade is treated with pain relievers. In rare cases, surgical treatment is used with a prolonged course and ineffective conservative treatment.
To prevent peripheral neuropathy, follow these simple rules:
- Don’t lift weights;
- Avoid repetitive movements. If this is not possible, stretch your arms and hands before starting work and, more often, give your hands a rest: relax your hands, shake them for a minute or two, or massage your palms and wrists;
- Take regular breaks from work before any discomfort arises;
- Watch your posture, and do exercises to strengthen your back muscles – pilates or yoga is ideal for this;
- Drink alcohol in moderation;
- Control chronic illness. If you have type 2 diabetes, remember to take your medications, eat a balanced diet, see your doctor regularly, and take vitamin B12 periodically;
Eat a varied diet that includes not only fruits and vegetables but also fish, dairy products, and eggs. If you are a vegan, talk to your doctor about taking vitamin B12.
If you find that your hand is often asleep when you wake up in the morning, there are several things you can do to prevent this from happening. First, check which fingers are affected.
- If it’s primarily your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, you can try over-the-counter neutral bracelets overnight.
- And if you notice that your pinky and ring finger are suffering, you can try wearing an elbow pad at night or just roll up a towel and place it on your elbow while you sleep; this will often prevent numbness on awakening.
- If you notice that your arms, hands, feet, or legs are regularly numb and the methods above are not working, this could be a sign of another medical condition, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or multiple sclerosis. In this case, you should contact your healthcare professional about it.
But in most cases, the feeling of pins and needles in your hand means that the nerve is temporarily pinched, and you should be back to normal soon.
Why are the right hand and fingers numb?
The cause may be a lack of vitamins, muscle overexertion, or inflammation of the brachial nerve. But you should be wary of more dangerous diagnoses: a pre-stroke condition, disturbances in the functioning of the nervous and cardiac systems.
Why do hands go numb in the morning?
Hands can go numb in the morning after waking up. This is a signal that it is time to change an ordinary pillow to an orthopedic one. But the most dangerous symptom is numbness in half of the body, which can be a sign of a stroke. In this case, you should always call an ambulance.
Why is peripheral neuropathy dangerous?
Muscle weakness quickly leads to decreased muscle tone and muscle atrophy. Sometimes the consequence of polyneuropathy is complete paralysis of the limbs or respiratory organs, and this is deadly. A progressive illness causes a lot of inconvenience to the patient, completely changing his usual way of life.
Why is there numbness in the hands?
Numbness in the hands occurs as a result of pinching of the nerve, which is responsible for the sensitivity and movement of the hand and fingers. Typically, the symptom is first felt in the little finger and thumb. After a while, it spreads to the entire brush. Symptoms are more likely to appear during a night’s sleep.