Finger pain or numbness can be alarming. While many people suffer from numbness in the hands because they’ve learned on their arm for too long, there are others who suffer from it on a regular basis. It’s not just a funny “I’ve got pins and needles” but something that prevents you doing everything you want.
It’s more often an annoying symptom of another condition. You can find it harder to perform your daily tasks and need to treat the condition to get rid of the symptom. The good news is there are options. The options will depend on the specific reason for finger pain or numbness.
Now is the time to look at the symptoms, reasons, and treatments available for finger numbness or finger pain. This is absolutely everything you need to know about it.
Why Does Finger Numbness Appear?
Most people who get a numb feeling in their fingers share find that they get a sensation of like multiple needles pricking their fingers. It’s often referred to as “pins and needles.” However, the condition can develop into complete numbness and in some situations extremely pain.
The numbness/pain usually occurs because the nerves are damaged or irritated. The nerves send messages from the fingers to the brain and back again. If they’re compressed or not functioning properly, the brain and fingers get mixed messages.
Most of the time, the nerves are affected due to other conditions. Inflammation is a major issue, putting pressure on and compressing the nerves so they become irritated and stalled.
Carpel tunnel is a common issue that leads to the nerves being obstructed or pinched. Pain often shoots from the nerve within the wrist up to the elbow and down into the hand. The middle and index fingers are more likely to feel numb, making it hard to grab anything. Sometimes the thumb can also be affected. As carpal tunnel flares up and disappears, often the pain and numbness in the fingers disappear over the time.
Diabetic neuropathy may be an issue. This often affects the feet more than the hands, but sometimes the fingers are affected. Most diabetic patients will experience problems with the feet first and experience numbness more than pain. This is a condition that can be managed. If you can keep your diabetes under control, you can usually avoid the side effects.
Those who suffer from Raynaud’s disease can also lead to finger pain. In some cases, the fingers spasm uncontrollably. The disease affects the circulation of the blood and you can suffer from cold extremities. The arteries within the fingers open and close quickly, putting pressure on the nerves and directly affecting the blood flow.
An autoimmune disorder known as rheumatoid arthritis is also linked to finger pain. This is usually in the joints, rather than in the tips of the fingers. The joints swell and become tender, often making it hard to use them. As the condition progresses, numbness and tingling may be experienced.
There’s a nerve in the neck that can be affected, leading to the condition cervical radiculopathy. The area becomes inflamed, compressing on the nerve. You can often get similar sensations to carpal tunnel syndrome, leading to many being diagnosed with the wrong condition at first. However, the pain is often in the whole arm, rather than from the elbow down.
Finally, ulnar nerve entrapment may lead to the numbness and pain in the fingers. This is usually in the ring and pinkie fingers of the hand affected, although other fingers can also cause a problem. The symptoms are very similar to carpal tunnel, but it’s the ulnar nerve affected instead. The reasons are similar, usually inflammation that compresses on the nerve.
While these are the more common problems, there are others that can lead to numbness in the fingers. Some of these problems are less likely than others.
If you have multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, HIV/AIDs or a vitamin B12 deficiency you can experience problems with the nerves. Many of these disorders don’t have a cure, but your doctor can arrange treatments to help manage the symptoms. Less common disorders include Guillain-Barre syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome and syphilis. A stroke can also cause problems with the nerves, although usually affects more than just the fingers. After a stroke, the nerves can become damage leading to complete numbness in usually one hand or arm.
Those who fracture their wrist or hand can damage the nerves. This will depend on the severity of the fracture and the way it’s been fractured. Usually, blunt force trauma will damage or sever nerves, which can lead to permanent numbness in the fingers. While fractures are healing, pain is often a side effect due to the nerves being compressed from inflammation or from healing.
Chemotherapy drugs can also damage the nerves in the body. This could lead to some pain or numbness in the fingers.
More frequently, numbness in the fingers is linked to pressure on the armor on nerves. You may have slept on your arm, leading to the arm feeling heavy. As your arm “wakes up,” you can get a tingling and painful sensation until full feeling returns. This is linked to the poor blood circulation from the way you’ve laid.
You may also catch a nerve in the way you sit. This is often the case at a desk when you put your arm on the edge. It’s possible to put pressure on some of the nerves that lead to the likes of carpal tunnel syndrome. Once you release the pressure, the numbness and pain will start to disappear.
In more serious cases, the finger numbness is a sign of a major emergency. Blood clots, brain bleeds, and strokes directly affect the nerves in the body. The messages are messed up in the brain and the finger numbness or pain is an early sign. By getting immediate medical attention, you could save your life or the life of a loved one!
Symptoms of Finger Numbness
While numbness is a symptom of other disorders, there are different ways the pain and numbness can affect you. This isn’t necessarily going to lead to no feeling at all in your fingers!
As mentioned above, sometimes only specific fingers are affected. You can get a “pins and needles” effect, so there’s a little bit of feeling but it tends to be painful and uncomfortable. It’s like when your foot goes to sleep and it’s getting the feeling back into it. However, with the fingers, the feeling doesn’t come back right away and this “pins and needles” effect lasts for hours and sometimes days.
In other cases, the fingers are heavy. You can see them moving, but you can’t feel it happening. Trying to grab things leads to you dropping them, as you can’t feel the grasp around the objects.
Then there are the cases where it’s almost impossible to move the fingers. The pain is intense not just in the joints, but in the whole wrist and arm. You can sometimes feel like the only way to get rid of the pain is to just chop off the limb!
Getting a Diagnosis
If you know the finger numbness isn’t from the way you’re laying, you should talk to your doctor about the pain. You should speak to a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms at the same time:
- Severe headaches/confusion/dizziness
- Full hand numbness
- Paralysis/sudden weakness
- Slurred speech
- Trouble breathing
When your finger numbness doesn’t have the above symptoms, you’ll want to keep a track of how often the problem occurs. If you get it regularly or it starts to interfere with your life, talk to your doctor. This is a sign of an underlying condition that your doctor may be able to help with.
Your doctor will usually listen to your symptoms, examine your arm and hand and look at your medical history. This can help to determine if it’s something like carpal tunnel or a more serious condition like Raynaud’s disease. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a neurologist or orthopedic doctor to assess the nerve damage and repair work that can happen.
Doctors will sometimes order an MRI scan. This gives a whole picture of the hand, arm, and shoulders, helping to determine if nerves are damaged, a bone has slipped out of place or there is a problem somewhere else in the body linking to the nerves in the fingers. Blood tests can also be done to rule out other health conditions or diagnose issues like a vitamin B12 deficiency or arthritis.
What Can Be Done?
Unfortunately, doctors can’t completely get rid of finger pain or numbness because of the condition. This is especially the case when it comes to carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve damage and other similar conditions. Your doctor will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce the swelling and compression of the nerves. A splint can also be used to manage movement and help to reduce flare-ups.
Over the counter, remedies are usually good for managing the pain for temporary flare-ups. When this isn’t the case, steroid injections may be offered.
In more serious cases, surgery may be recommended. This is often the case for damaged nerves that can be repaired or when severe fractures have occurred. However, the surgery can also be offered for severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome and other similar issues. Some of the most common surgical treatments include:
- Medical spondylectomy
- Ulnar nerve anterior transposition
- Cubital tunnel release
Your doctor will assess your medical history and condition to determine the best treatment for you.
When you do suffer flare-ups of numbness or pain, you can use homeopathic remedies like heat and ice. These can help to relieve some of the compression, reduce inflammation and soothe the pain. Your doctor will likely recommend that you rest.
It’s possible to help prevent the condition or ease symptoms by performing wrist and hand exercises. Stretch the fingers out as wide as possible for 10 seconds and then release. Circle the wrist 10 times clockwise and then reverse the movement. Roll the shoulders five times backward and then forwards. The trick is to keep your body as relaxed as possible, which is difficult when you’re in pain.
Is It Possible to Prevent Finger Numbness?
Repetitive motions are one of the most common reasons for nerve problems in the wrists and arms, which leads to the finger numbness and pain. The best thing you can do is avoid these repetitive motions.
You can’t always do the motions. After all, typing at a computer is one of the most common reasons for some nerve issues and you may need to do that for work. Posture can help to prevent the problems, along with using pads to support the wrists and arms while you type.
Make sure you take regular breaks from your movements. Every hour at least, you should step away from the movements for 5-10 minutes. Do the movement exercises above to help release pressure on the nerves and prevent them from being damaged.
If the condition still causes problems, consider a wrist brace for when you’re typing. This can reduce the movement of your hands and wrists, but not so much that you can’t type.
Finger Numbness and Pain: In Conclusion
In most of the cases, finger numbness and pain aren’t something to be overly worried about. It is usually a sign of compression or irritation on the nerve, commonly due to carpal tunnel or another nerve disorder. The body inflames and puts pressure on the nerves, but once the inflammation resides the symptoms will too.
However, you will want to look out for all other symptoms you experience, as well as the frequency. Finger numbness and pain could be a sign of a more serious disorder, especially when accompanied by symptoms above.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor, even when it’s nothing life-threatening. Finger numbness and pain can affect your ability to do daily tasks, but your doctor can offer treatments to help.