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Paresthesia

Are your arms or hands tingling or feeling numb? Here’s why it happens.

If you’ve ever had a strange tingling or numb feeling in your hands and arms, that felt a little like pins and needles, you could have experienced an episode of paresthesia.

There are many different causes for paresthesia, ranging from a simple lack of movement through to carpel tunnel syndrome or even pinched nerves.

On this page, Spalding’s leading soft tissue therapists, State 11 Soft Tissue Therapy, have put together some information about paresthesia and what might be causing it and how it can be treated.

If you are worried by any strange feelings in your upper limbs, please seek urgent medical advice.

Cause 1: Lack of movement

Lack of movement is one of the more common causes of paresthesia. Simply holding your arm or hand in the same position – or alternatively, sleeping or lying for prolonged periods with your hand or arm underneath you – can cause a tingling or numb sensation that worsens when the limb is moved. The best solution for paresthesia from lack of movement is simply to keep moving your arm or hand to encourage the blood to flow correctly to your nerves again.

Cause 2: Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that often affects people who type a lot, or undertake repetitive hand or wrist movements. Known as CTS, it is similar to the other equally unpleasant office condition, repetitive strain injury (RSI). Both conditions cause pain across the forearm, wrists and hands. We’ve put more information about CTS, along with information about stretches to help lessen your chances of developing Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, here

Cause 3: Compression Neuropathy

Compression Neuropathy is the medical description for local pressure on a nerve. There are several major nerves in the hand and arm (the ulnar nerve, the medial nerve and the radial nerve), and when these nerves are compressed, there can be a feeling of numbness or tingling. The muscles that are controlled by those nerves can also feel “weak” or like they have wasted away. They could also appear to twitch or “jump” without warning. Depending on where in the hand the numbness is, your therapist can tell which nerve is causing the problem, which is obviously very useful when treating the cause. The nerves may be compressed locally due to a variety of issues including injuries, ganglion cysts or even arthritic spurs.

A diagram of hands showing different nerve issues that can affect the hands and fingers

Cause 4: Cervical Radiculopathy

As well as local pressure, there is also the possibility that the nerves can be compressed from the neck, where the nerves have their root. This is called Cervical Radiculopathy. This compression will normally be between the C6 and T1 vertebrae, and can be caused by a variety of issues such as arthritis, narrowing of the spinal canal or herniated discs pressing on the nerves as well as issues such as infections or issues with the spinal cord itself.

The location of the tingling or numbness in the hand and arm can help a skilled therapist or medical professional work out where the compression is occurring. It is sometimes called a “pinched nerve” because the nerve is being “pinched” in the neck.

The hands are innervated by different nerves as showing in this anatomical diagram of hands

Cause 5: Vitamin B Deficiency

A lack of vitamin B12 can sometimes lead to nerve damage causing tingling or numbness in the upper and lower limbs. This is often treated at the start with vitamin supplements or injections with further damage being mitigated by ensuring that there is enough B12 in the diet.

Cause 6: Everything Else!

There are plenty of other causes for continued tingling and numbness in the hands and arms, including conditions such as multiple sclerosis, liver disease or alcoholism, where the symptoms are caused by nerve damage rather than pinched or trapped nerves.

Do you need help with tingling arms or hands?

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