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Get To The Root of Arm Numbness or Tingling

August 24, 2011 in Article, Neck Pain, Pain Management,
Posted by Michael W. Hasz
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Don’t underestimate tingling, numbness, or pain in your arms. Get to the root of the problem — it could be caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist, elbow, or neck.

Tingling in your thumb as well as index and middle fingers? 
This is often related to irritation of the nerve at the wrist.  If you spend countless hours writing or typing on the computer, then you’ve probably heard of carpal tunnel syndrome. Furthermore, these symptoms can be associated with pregnancy, as there is often fluid retention and additional swelling in the hands and wrist.  We’ve all woken up during the night with our hand “falling asleep” and then have to shake it hands in order for the tingling and numbness to go away.  If that sensation is due to pinched nerves in the wrist, there should not be any pain or numbness in the elbow or shoulders.  The symptoms should be isolated to the hands or wrists.  It is often treated by resting the nerve or wrist by wearing a wrist splint, taking anti-inflammatory medications, and occasionally doing injections around the wrist to help decrease inflammation. Physical therapy can often help decrease inflammation, but if it is not effective, surgery will take pressure off the nerves and is often helpful.

Numbness in your forearm, ring & pinky finger? 
If so, it may be due to a pinching of nerves around the elbow.  The ulnar nerve can often be stretched and irritated around the elbow.  This irritation is called cubital tunnel syndromeDid you know Cubital is from the Latin term for elbow? Non-operative treatments including resting and bracing can often help. However, surgery may be indicated to decompress the nerve if non-operative treatments are not successful. .

Pain radiating down your entire arm?
If you are experiencing numbness and tingling radiating down the entire arm, often accompanied by pain around the shoulder blade, shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers, this may be related to a pinching of nerves in the neck. Some people will find that placing their hand above their head will take pressure off the nerve and relieve some of their arm and shoulder pain.  Others find that tilting their head one way or the other causes the pain to improve or worsen.  This may be a sign they are having nerve irritation due to a disc herniation or arthritic spur in the neck.  These are symptoms of cervical radiculopathy.

Initially, cervical radiculopathy is treated with non-operative, conservative treatments with a goal of decreasing inflammation with medication and/or rest.  Cervical traction can also help take pressure off the nerve briefly, which may also decrease inflammation around the nerve.  However, if the non-operative treatments are not effective, then surgical intervention may be indicated to take pressure off the nerve.

If you have tingling or numbness in the arms, it is important to specifically identify where you are experiencing pain to better understand where it is originating.  Pinching of the nerve in the wrist, elbow, or neck can all cause different symptoms and they need to be treated in with unique approaches.  In most cases these symptoms can be treated non operatively. For the surgical candidates, most are back to all activities within a couple of weeks or months and most are back at full sporting activities after a full recovery.

Causes of arm pain range from mild annoyances to severe and potentially life-threatening occurrences. Seek a doctor’s diagnoses as treatments depend on the underlying cause.

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