Arthritis, hand injuries, cysts, tendon problems, neurological disorders, and narrowed nerve canals can all cause symptoms in the hand. In this article, we address common questions about hand pain, numbness, and weakness.

What causes finger numbness?

Finger numbness usually occurs when the nerves providing sensation to the hand are compressed, injured, or diseased. Some patients with finger numbness complain that they have a tingling or prickling feeling, whereas others feel a burning pain or electric shocks. Finger numbness may also be associated with loss of hand strength or coordination, causing clumsiness.

Numbness in the hand can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Nerve compression: Pinched nerves in the wrist (carpal tunnel), elbow (cubital tunnel), shoulder (brachial neuritis), and neck (cervical radiculopathy) can cause finger numbness.
  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves that control sensation in the feet and hands, causing diabetic neuropathy.
  • Infections: Viral or bacterial infections
  • Masses, injury, and inflammation: Cysts, tumors, fractures, anomalous muscle, or swelling of the tendons can narrow nerve canals innervating the hand, causing numbness and tingling.
  • Autoimmune disease: Disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can cause nerve damage.
  • Exposure to toxins: Certain toxins, such as chemotherapy drugs or heavy metals, can damage nerves.
  • Neurological disorders: In some cases, symptoms in the hand may be linked to faulty signaling in the brain due to disease or injury. For example, strokes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and multiple sclerosis (MS) may cause finger numbness in addition to other symptoms.

It’s important to consult with a qualified medical professional if you are experiencing any symptoms of hand nerve damage, as early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent further damage.

How do hand surgeons treat finger numbness?

At our practice, we commonly see patients who present with finger numbness and weakness due to entrapment neuropathy. We can usually classify which nerve is involved and appropriate treatment options based on which fingers are affected.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, occurs when the median nerve is compressed at the wrist. The median nerve provides sensation to the skin of the front (palmar aspect) of the hand, including the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring finger.

Cubital tunnel syndrome is associated with numbness in the inner (medial) aspect of the hand and half of the ring finger and little finger caused by ulnar nerve compression in the elbow. This nerve can also be compressed at the wrist in Guyon’s canal, although this is less common.

The radial nerve provides sensation to the skin on the back (dorsal) aspect of the hand and thumb, and also innervates the extensor muscles of the arm and forearm. Radial tunnel syndrome is diagnosed when a branch of the radial nerve, the posterior interosseous nerve at the proximal forearm, is compressed. Whereas carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes are usually associated with finger numbness, radial tunnel syndrome causes a nagging pain in the elbow and forearm.

Each of these nerve compression conditions is treatable. Some patients can alleviate symptoms with rest, braces, physical therapy, and medications, while others require surgery. Surgical procedures to repair carpal, cubital, or radial tunnel syndrome are quick, highly successful, and usually provide immediate relief.

Are You Experiencing Hand Numbness, Pain, or Weakness? Book Your Consultation Today

Our team of board-certified plastic, reconstructive, and hand surgeons at Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona will answer your questions and discuss your symptoms and treatment options.

Medical Review: This procedural information has been medically reviewed by plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Brian A. Cripe, M.D.

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