What Actually Causes Hand Numbness and Pain?

elderly hands

Call 911 or seek prompt medical attention if your hand numbness starts suddenly and is accompanied by dizziness, severe and immediate headache, slurred speech, confusion, and inability to move.

From texting and typing to doing the dishes, you use your hands for many different things every day. Getting even little things done is a lot harder if you’re battling an ongoing burning sensation in your hands or repeatedly finding yourself waking up with a tingling or dullness in your fingers. Figuring out what causes hand numbness is the first step to finding relief from intermittent and persistent hand pain (and preventing complications and permanent nerve damage).

Read on to get answers to frequently asked questions about what can cause hands to go numb and how the condition is sometimes treated.

Why Do My Hands Feel Numb?

What makes someone feel numbness, also called paresthesia, varies from person to person based on many different factors. 

Carpal tunnel, compression of one of your wrist nerves, is one of the most common causes of hand numbness. However, there are many other conditions that can cause hand numbness, including:

  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Certain medications and cancer treatments, e.g., chemotherapy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Herniated discs or pinched nerves in the neck
  • Inflammatory diseases, e.g., celiac disease and sarcoidosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Other nerve entrapment syndromes, e.g., cubital tunnel syndrome
  • Nutritional deficiencies, e.g., vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
  • Pregnancy
  • Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Toxin exposure, e.g., arsenic, insecticides, pesticides, lead, and recreational drugs
  • Traumatic crushing injuries

If the symptom is persistent and prolonged, seeing an experienced hand specialist is the best way to get to the bottom of what causes hand numbness that keeps you from doing what you love.

Is Hand Numbness Serious?

Have you ever woken up with a dead feeling in your hand that quickly went away when you started to move around? This might be a sign that you slept in an awkward position that made the nerves connected to your hand unhappy and cut off normal blood flow

The first time you notice a numb feeling like this can be alarming, but—in many cases—it’s not usually a reason to worry. Most people have experienced an instance of this kind of short-lived, infrequent, mild numbness at least one time after holding a compressing position for an extended period. 

On the other hand, some people regularly deal with a dull sensation that makes it hard for them to live everyday life. In cases like these where the tingling doesn’t go away, what causes hand numbness may be a more serious medical disorder.

When Should I See a Doctor About Hand Numbness?

Anyone experiencing ongoing or intermittent numbness in their fingers or hands should see a hand specialist.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

If your hand numbness lingers, it’s time to make an appointment with a hand specialist to get a proper diagnosis and find the actual cause of this bothersome symptom.

During your appointment, a hand specialist will almost always start by:

  • Conducting physical exam(s) to assess your condition,
  • Reviewing your complete medical history, and
  • Running additional appropriate tests, e.g., MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, and nerve tests

Treatments for Numb Hands

Every person is different. That’s why the best hand doctors create personalized treatment plans for each patient based on what causes hand numbness in their bodies. 

For example, suppose you are diagnosed with a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. In that case, a hand physician will likely recommend an initial set of conservative, non-operative treatments to help you get hand pain relief, such as:

  • Making time for regular breaks while doing repetitive tasks,
  • Wearing a brace or splint to support your wrist,
  • Doing wrist exercises to relieve pressure,
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, like Advil, to reduce inflammation

When your hands are always numb, it can be debilitating. Seek appropriate treatment sooner rather than later after symptoms start for more treatment options and a greater chance for a positive outcome.

Experts in Treating What Causes Hand Numbness

Since 1971, patients from across Indiana and throughout the United States have placed their trust in Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center’s experienced hand specialists.

“Dr. Greenberg is such a great doctor. He explained what causes hand numbness for me. I had been to three other doctors for the same problem, but they didn’t know why my hands hurt. I’m grateful I finally got the right care.”

—Jane S., Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center hand pain patient

What causes hand numbness for you doesn’t have to remain a mystery. We can help. Request an appointment today

Prefer to schedule by phone? Call us at (317) 751-5904.

woman gathered together talking

You Might Also Like ...


Disclaimer: The materials on this website have been prepared for informational purposes only and do not constitute advice. You should not act or rely upon any medical information on this website without a physician’s advice. The information contained within this website is not intended to serve as a substitution for a thorough examination from a qualified healthcare provider. The display of this information is not intended to create a health care provider-patient relationship between the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center and you.