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Is Your Hand Numb or Tingling?

Many people have numbness and or tingling which may wake them up at night or bother them during the day.  Numbness and tingling is always a sign of nerve issues.  As nerves leave the spinal cord and make their way to the hands, they follow a path from the neck, running between the neck muscles, under the clavicle, through the armpit and into the arm where they can be pinched due to swelling or muscle tightness from trauma or poor posture.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the condition that most people think of when their hand goes numb.  Numbness occurs when the median nerve travels through the carpal tunnel which is formed by 8 little bones that form a u with the median nerve in the center.  The carpal tunnel has a thick ligament over the top of the u and when swollen pushes on the nerve. This swelling often results in numbness and or tingling in the fingers and if untreated can progress to hand weakness.  It is most commonly caused by mousing with your hand turned towards the pinky side of your arm or repetitive activities such as typing.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is the most common work injury and is caused by repetition, forceful movements, awkward positions, extended exposure to temperatures below 40, vibration, prolonged activities and pressure.  It can lead to tendinitis or bursitis or symptoms of numbness and tingling in the forearm and hand in much the same pattern as CTS and TOS.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is caused by nerve compression as it exits the thoracic cavity.  Postural issues such as prolonged sitting are often the culprit.  Our bodies are designed to move and the advent of the computer that allows people to sit for extended periods of time (awkward posture)and type with great speed (repetitive, force, prolonged activity), resting their forearms on the desk (pressure) can lead to RSI or TOS.

A pinched nerve can occur at the neck, armpit or elbow and will also have symptoms similar to CTS and TOS.  Nerves can be pinched between overworked muscles, muscles pushing up against bones, in the neck from the disc pushing on the nerve root or in the elbow from direct trauma such as hitting your funny bone.

Treatments such as rest, ice and avoiding the activity in question is always a first step.  Often joint or soft tissue mobilization are helpful in the early stages.  Home program of stretching and use of foam roller to open the chest and stretch the arms is also helpful.  Chiropractic, Physical Therapy are very helpful for these treatments and in more advanced cases of CTS orthopedic consultation may be required.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council and can be reached on the web at  She is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and can be reached for questions at 290-5575 or on the web at


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