Arm Numbness, Tingling Hands and Fingers


Numbness means decreased, and tingling  unusual skin sensation. In this article, numbness and tingling in the arm, shoulder, hand or fingers are described. Read about numbness in both arms (hands) AND legs (feet).

Picture 1. Arm dermatomes
(A dermatome is a skin area, innervated by a single spinal nerve)
(Source: Wikimedia)


Pressure Upon the Arm

Pressure upon the arm nerves or vessels causing numbness, tingling or temporary paralysis of the arm may result from:

  • Sleeping with the hand under the head
  • Sitting with the arm hanging over the back of a chair
  • Wearing straps or carrying a bag or rucksack
  • Inflated cuff during measuring blood pressure

Raising the Arms Above the Level of the Heart

Keeping the hand(s) above the level of the heart during work or sleep can prevent appropriate blood perfusion of the hands, and cause numbness, tingling or partial paralysis of the hand(s) within few minutes.


In cold weather, narrowing of the arteries in the hands and fingers can prevent appropriate blood supply and thus numbness, tingling, pain or temporary paralysis of the hands and fingers.


Cervical Disk Syndrome

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) or injury, like hyper-extension injury in car accidents (head moves rapidly toward the back), can result in bulging or herniated disc(s) pressing upon the cervical (neck) spinal nerves, thus causing symptoms of cervical disc syndrome:

  • Position/movement dependent pain, tingling or numbness in the neck, shoulders, upper back, arm, hand or fingers (when the roots of cervical spinal nerves are compressed)
  • Stumbling gait, difficulty with fine hand moves, tingling in the body or legs (when the cervical spinal cord is compressed)

Symptoms can appear immediately after the injury, or develop slowly over the weeks or months. Diagnosis is made by a CT or MRI of the neck spine. Therapy includes immobilization, cold therapy followed by heat therapy, cervical traction, analgesics, muscle relaxants, physical therapy or surgical decompression of the nerve roots or spinal cord.

Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is an age-related deformation of the cervical spine; deformed vertebra or discs can press upon the spinal cord or nerve roots in the neck and cause chronic symptoms, like in the cervical disc syndrome (see above).


Disorders of the Brachial Plexus

The brachial plexus is formed by the cervical nerves C5-C8 and thoracic nerve Th1. The plexus extends from the lower part of the neck to the armpit. From brachial plexus all main nerves to the arm (axillary, musculocutaneus, ulnar, radial, and median nerve) arise.

Brachial Plexus Injuries

Most of brachial plexus injuries usually occur in car, motorcycle and sport accidents, during birth, or in bullet or knife injuries. Symptoms and prognosis depend on the nerves involved and extent of an injury: nerve stretching, scar tissue (neuroma), partial or complete nerve rupture or tearing of the nerve from the spinal cord. A limp or paralyzed arm, severe pain and numbness, especially in the neck and shoulders, and weak arterial pulses in the arm are main symptoms.

Some brachial plexus injuries may heal without treatment. Many children who are injured during birth improve or recover by 3 to 4 months of age. Treatment of brachial plexus injuries includes physical therapy and, if necessary, surgery.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet is the space between the collar bone (clavicle), first rib and corresponding ligaments through which nerves and vessels travel from the base of the neck toward the armpit. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) results from a compression or extension of the subclavian artery or vein, or brachial plexus (nerves), commonly occurring in motorbike accidents, athletes, swimmers, weight lifters, etc. Symptoms include:

  • Muscle wasting at the base of the thumb, numbness, feeling of pins and needles, or pain in the shoulder, armpit, arm or hand (when nerves are compressed)
  • Pale, cool arm with weakened arterial pulse in the arm, numbness and pain (when vessels are compressed)

Radiation-Induced Brachial Plexopathy

Radiation-induced damage of the brachial plexus can follow radiotherapy of the chest, axillary region, thoracic outlet or neck. Symptoms may appear months to years after radiation therapy and include numbness, swelling, weakness or pain in the arm.

Broken Shoulder Blade

Shoulder blade (scapula) is the bone in the upper back that connects the collar bone (clavicle) and arm bone (humerus). Broken shoulder blade, usually from a car or motorbike accident, can result in pain,  swelling, bruising or deformation of the shoulder blade area, and weakness, numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm.

Broken Arm, Wrist, Hand or Finger

Symptoms of broken arm (the arm bone – humerus, elbow, and bones of the forearm – radius and ulna) include:

  • Severe pain increasing with arm movement
  • Obvious deformity, swelling, tenderness and bruising over the site of bone fracture
  • Stiffness or inability to move your arm, hand or finger
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the arm, hand or fingers

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Ulnar Neuropathy

The ulnar nerve arises from the brachial plexus in the neck and travels under the collar bone, downside along the inner side of the upper arm, behind the inner part of the elbow (Latin cubitus), where it can be felt as a “funny bone” and then down to the wrist, hand and little and ring finger. Ulnar nerve entrapment usually results from an elbow injury or constant pressure upon the elbow, like in cyclists or typists.  Symptoms, known as cubital tunnel syndrome, include:

  • Pain on the inner side of the elbow or electric shock sensation after touching the elbow
  • The hand, ring and little finger are numb and falling asleep, especially after bending the elbow
  • Limited movements of the ring and little finger (“handlebar palsy” in cyclists)
  • Hand (on the little finger side) sensitivity to cold

Prevention of ulnar nerve entrapment is by avoiding excessive elbow use. Treatment includes special arm exercises, anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, and wearing an elbow splint.


Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of an uncertain cause affecting the nerve tissue of the spinal cord, brainstem or brain. Symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually, “travel” among various body parts and include: numbness or tingling in one or both arms (or any other body part), blurred or double vision or blindness, weak or paralysed limbs, problems with urinating or defecating, difficulty maintaining balance, tiredness, etc. Symptoms can last from few weeks to several months, disappear completely and appear again, and, in general, worsen with time.

Diagnosis is with MRI of the brain and spinal cord, and examination of cerebrospinal fluid obtained by lumbar punction. Apart from treating symptoms, there is no treatment for multiple sclerosis at the time.


Acute brachial neuritis is a rare, supposedly autoimmune inflammation of brachial plexus, occurring at any age, but primarily in young men. Symptoms include severe pain in the upper arms and shoulders, followed by numbness and weak reflexes; the disorder resolves in few months on its own.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Carpal tunnel syndrome (Latin carpus = wrist) is a painful condition of the wrist, hand and fingers, caused by repetitive use of the wrist, or swelling of the tissues in the wrist, resulting in a pressure upon the median nerve. CTS is a common problem in assembly line workers, computer workers, musicians, mechanics, tennis players, etc. Bone spurs in rheumatoid arthritis, or fluid in hypothyroidism, kidney disease or menopause may also press on the median nerve. Symptoms usually start gradually and include:

  • Tingling or numbness in the  thumb, index, middle and ring finger and related part of the hand
  • Pain in the wrist, palm or forearm
  • Difficulty grasping small objects or gripping
  • Hand pain at night

Ganglion Cyst

Ganglion cyst (Greek ganglion = tumor, cyst = fluid filled sac) is a soft lump, usually appearing on the back of the hand in some people between 20-40 years of age. It is a noncancerous fluid filled sack arising from the tendon sheets or capsule of the joint from an unknown reason. Ganglion cysts may not be always seen from the outside. Gymnasts often have them. Symptoms include:

  • A soft lump or lumps of various size (may exceed an inch), on the back of the hand, inner side of the wrist, base of the finger, or on the last finger joint.
  • Pain or numbness in the wrist, hand or finger(s)


Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s disease is a painful finger condition due to spasms in the finger arteries. Disease may also affect toes or, rarely, nose, ears, lips and nipples. The cause is not known. Symptoms are triggered by cold (even short term cold like taking something from a freezer) or strong emotions, and appear in the following sequence:

  • Fingers (one, more or all in one or both hands) become pale, numb or cold due to lack of blood flow, then bluish due to a lack of oxygen, then red, with throbbing pain and tingling as blood returns to the affected area.
  • Attacks can occur daily, weekly or occasionally and can last from less than a minute to several hours, usually about 15 minutes. Different areas can be affected at different times. Severe, although rare, attacks can result in finger sores or tissue death (gangrene).

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a term used for the same finger symptoms as in Raynaud’s disease, when the cause is known. Causes include: connective tissue diseases, like scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren’s syndrome, dermatomyositis, and polymyositis, carpal tunnel syndrome, obstructive arterial disease, anti-hypertensive drugs, ergotamine (used for treating migraine), chemotherapeutic medications, etc.

In workers exposed to vinyl chloride, using vibrating tools, typists and pianists, Raynaud’s phenomenon also commonly occurs.


History of arm numbness. Knowing an exact time course of tingling or numbness, and eventual arm weakness, head or legs involvement, history of arm or neck injuries, repetitive elbow or wrist use, reactions to cold, hypothyroidism, diabetes, menopause may give a strong evidence about the cause.

Neurological examination. Testing of sensitivity of a particular arm dermatome can reveal which nerves are involved.

Imaging. X-ray may reveal arthritis in the neck spine, or a broken arm bone. Myelography can reveal herniated disc or narrowed spinal canal. MRI and CT show soft tissues like tumors.

Electromiography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies can show the nature of the nerve damage. Together with imaging they are important to evaluate the extent of brachial plexus injury.

Blood tests can reveal diabetes, abnormalities in serum levels of sugar (diabetes), calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, vitamins B6 or B12, thyroxine (hypothyroidism), sex hormones (menopause).

Cold simulation test can reveal Raynaud’s disease or phenomenon.


Firstly, the cause of numbness should be treated if possible.

Non-steroid anti-rheumatic drugs like ibuprofen, or antidepressants, may relieve pain and numbness.

Rest and immobilization of the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or the whole arm is sometimes necessary after an injury, or when joint movements contribute to nerve irritation, like in ulnar nerve entrapment or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Physical therapy may help when bones, articles and muscle tendons are involved. Physiotherapist may show you special exercises for each type of nerve disorder.

Effect of acupuncture, acupressure, TENS (Trans Cutaneous Nerve Stimulation) may be debatable. Certain ointments like capsaicin may temporarily relieve tingling, burning sensations.


The following may help to prevent arm and hand numbness:

  • Avoid putting the arm over the chair back to prevent permanent injury of brachial plexus
  • Avoid sleeping with the hand under the head, or with arms on the pillow
  • Avoid using mechanical screwdrivers
  • Do not rest your elbows on the desk for long periods of time, while working with a computer
  • Wear warm gloves at low temperatures

Related Articles:


  1. Brachial plexus  (
  2. Anatomy of the arm  (
About Jan Modric (249 Articles)
Health writer

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  • Hi Anna. You should speak to your doctor and possibly consult with a neurologist. Your symptoms sound a lot like nerve root compression. Most people know of it as a pinched nerve. From what you describe, the nerve supplying the arm is ‘pinched’ most likely at the point where it branches out from the spinal cord. This is a common condition. Your doctor will have to confirm the diagnosis and then discuss the treatment options with you.

  • Hi Fernando. It is possible that your symptoms are related to your masonry work. You may have sustained what is known as repetitive stress injury from overworking your hands with the same types of tasks. You will need to see a doctor who will confirm whether it is a repetitive stress injury or maybe a pinched nerve or some related condition. Only then can the appropriate treatment be prescribed.

  • Angelica Guizar


    I tend to lay on my stomach as i use my phone at night. When doing this i start feeling numbness from my elbow to my middle finger? Also when I accidentally sleep on my arm, I wake up to a completely number arm from shoulder to fingers. I of course dont do this on purpose. It worries me because it’s happening more frequently. Is this normal?

  • Lori Fergusson

    I had a fall last night on my right side. My right shoulder blade feels bruised, broke last 2 toes on right foot, and this morning and four 4 hours now my middle finger and thumb on right hand are numb. Any ideas?

  • Lori Fergusson

    Will it get better on its own?

  • Jade

    I woke up this morning with pins & needles sensation from the tip of my pinky all the way down to my wrist. I have had it all day, and its now accompanied by a burning sensation. & Now for the last hour it has been doing spasms…… any idea what it could be from?

  • Madison

    For going on 3 months my arms have gotten progressively worse. It started with my hands, I woke and it was hard to open and close them, then my forearms stared getting a tingling sensation and staying numb/ a sharp pain randomly throughout the day, now I can’t sleep at night because of the pain. It feels like my arms are burning( mainly my right) and I have to physically shake my arm to find some sort of relief. The pain is sharp, tingly, and almost like a burning sensation. But I’m worried because it’s progressively moved up my arm the past 3 months.. Now it’s effecting my sleep, when I drive both go completely numb, and it effecting my everyday activity. IA this serious?

  • Daina

    Hi. I have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, am 39. I also have a host of other conditions. Secondary to that, so I have many specialists in my medical team. Midday yesterday, my left ring finger started to get tingly. Then the pinky and middle finger joined the party. Today , pain started in my shoulder, thumb and inner forearm (close to inner elbow). I would describe the inner forearm/inner elbow pain as the feeling you get when someone tries to take blood and the vein blows. I’m trying to figure out which specialist I should call?
    Thank you,

  • nervousq

    Hi I was in a car crash nine months ago, I have sre neck arms constantly going numb but lately the left side of my face it getting puffy, could this be related to the crash / whiplash of something else,
    its bloated now and i have pain in my left arm and swollen numb fingers, I am already on strong anti inflammatory drugs but still hurts

  • Hi Nervousq. It could possibly be related but it is unlikely. Swelling after an injury is usually related to inflammation or bleeding and is the most acute shortly (hours and days) after the trauma. Your symptoms are appearing 9 months later. It is possible that this is due to another condition altogether. However, it is possible that the condition now causing this could have been triggered by the car crash all that time back. Difficult to say for sure. You should speak to your family doctor and have it investigated further.

  • Jessica

    My left arm, up the shoulder, both hands and fingers are numb, swollen, and hurt when I wake up. No matter how I sleep. I have a, long time getting them back to normal. During the day my toes and fingers will go numb, even when I’m sitting down barefoot.

  • Tiffani

    Hi! I know this is an old thread but hope someone will see & be able to help me. My symptoms are like Victor Valkryian’s but its in my right arm/hand & my numbness/tingling feeling is in the top of my hand, up my middle & 1st finger about 1/2 way & wraps around my thumb. My wrist also starts bending in as I extend my fingers or try to straighten them out. I can grab if I concentrate but no grip. Cant point or type with that hand at all. Trying to do anything with my fingers immediately makes my wrist bend inward. I know I slept on it funny last night, sitting up with my wrist holding my bodyweight up, so know I had to have had it bent backwards. But there isnt any pain!! I wasnt thinking cuts because of where the numbness is & what my hand is doing. I was thinking more ong the radial muscle possibly?? Im not sure. Would love some feedback & opinions!! Just woke up this morning with it & hard to do anything cor myself let alone my toddler son! HELP!! No pain, slight possible swelling around fingers & back of wrist. Just noticed my upper arm muscle does hurt like I hit it on somethin but it just follows the muscle on the back of my upper arm. Thanks! Tiffani

  • Amy Nelson Wilson

    Hi, for the last 2 weeks whenever I lay down my right arm wakes me up. I can’t really describe how it feels. The best way to describe it is u know how when u hit ur funny bone you get this tingly pain through your arm well that’s how it feels. But it also is in hand. It wakes me up 7- 12 times a night. Even when I’m not laying on it it does it. I’ve been sleeping on my left side.the thing is whenever I sit up in bed the pain stops within mins but as soon as I lay back down starts again. After I get up in the morns my hand and arm is weak and hurts to use it. If I try to pick something up it shoots a pain thru my wrist and elbow. My fingers are swole. It’s only in my right arm. What could this be? I can’t see a Dr til my insurance goes into effect in January. Please help. Thank you.

  • Hi Amy. There are many possibilities for the symptoms you are experiencing as you can see from the article above. There is a good chance that what you are experiencing is a pinched nerve. This means that the nerve is compressed somewhere along its path from the where it exits the spinal cord. For the nerves that run to the arm, this is usually around the neck level of the spinal cord. It may be pinched at the back or anywhere along its course, with the more likely areas being the elbow (you may want to read up on cubital tunnel syndrome) or at the wrist (like in carpal tunnel syndrome). The fact that the symptoms seem to worsen when you are lying does further point towards a pinched nerve at the level of the neck. However, we cannot say for sure. A doctor will have to assess you and possibly run further tests before confirming a diagnosis.


    Hi my name is John. so on the 25th i fell asleep for about an hour on my left arm and when i woke up my thumb and index finger were unable to bend to full capcity. i have full wrist motion and movement. i can make the ok sign, the hitchiker thumb, and im able to touch my thumb to my pinkie finger. so im thinking its from the way i took a nap and compressed my median nerve and am now having a bit of a temporary palsy of the median nerve. There is no pain or swelling just a numb like tingle needles and pins feeling. i just want to know how temporary this is and what i can do to make it recover faster if anything because im a lead guitarist and well i would like this to be as temporary as possible.. please help if you can. Thanks, John

  • Hi Jonathon. It is difficult to say for sure. The compression caused by laying on the arm would only cause temporary symptoms that would last for a few minutes, or hours at most. The fact that this is persisting most likely indicates a more serious pathology. The compression may not have been the cause or at most could have been a trigger or exacerbating factor. There are several possibilities to consider but this should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Consult with a doctor as soon as possible. It may not be anything serious but there is no way of knowing for sure without further investigation.

  • Sue

    Hello, my name is Sue,

    My right hand twitches very slightly all the time. and when I hold my right arm and hand straight out my middle finger drops down.

  • Nicole Mcnamee

    I have a fullness numbness feeling on the top of my forearm and its in between my elbow and thumb. Im not an active person and i sleep in a chair and im a 25 year old female.

  • IndependentforFreedom

    Suddenly while sitting at my desk my left arm and shoulder went numb but no pain – within just a few minutes — say 5 minutes, my arm came back to normal after wiggling it around. I sleep in the fetal position and on top of my arms every night – a habit I cannot stop. When I awake I have to unfurl my body from holding it so tight in the fetal position. Hopefully this is why I had this happen. I am a heavy computer user at work also. It felt like I turned at my desk and suddenly this came on. TY for any information.

  • Den Fernando

    my both arm is numbing and tingling i don’t know why, it just started a 5days ago, i’m 16 5’4 i’m 80pounds female been eating healthy foods and taking exercises like jogging, but i stopped yesterday because of this numbness/tingling in my both arm and hands, and its worse right now. after my jogging every night (well im just doing it in every 6pm to 7pm) i’m using my computer playing games on it, well i spend more time playing in my phone maybe like 2hrs to 3hrs, when im waking up everymorning i dont feel the numbness/tingling in my arm and hand i just feel it when i’m doing something. please what can i do to stop it? i’ve been worrying im scared, and i think i’m the only one who’s young here. im only 16 turning 17 this april 29 2016.

  • Debbie

    Please help!
    For about a month now my Right arm feels like it’s asleep in the morning while I’m on my computer…..Now….for the last week-when I wake up in the morning-my right arm has pain…and right arm, hand and fingers feel numb and tingly also…..I’m reallllly afraid! What could this be?

  • Stacy Miller

    My left middle finger and index finger stays tingling all the time now. It’s very hard to grab something using those fingers. It has started to get worse by hurting instead of just tingling. If I have to stretch to pick something up I jump in pain, feels like my finger can’t stretch, like there’s not enough skin to stretch…I don’t know if I’m making any sense but it’s been going on for several months. I thought it was a pinched nerve….? Any thoughts?