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Sheltering Arms Blog

Tingling in Your Fingers? Is it Carpal Tunnel or Something Else?

Posted on: May 10, 2018 by Clinicians Editor

By: Melinda Jermer-Gu OTR/L, MEd

Have you experienced a tingling sensation or pain in your hands? It could be carpal tunnel syndrome; however, these symptoms may also mean that a nerve is pinched somewhere else in your body.

The nerves in our hands and fingers begin in our spinal cord at the base of the neck. From there, those nerves pass through the shoulder, down the arm, over and around the elbow, and to the wrist before reaching into our hands and fingers. A nerve can become pinched at any point along this complex route – at the neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist – all of which can cause tingling in the hand. When a pinched nerve is the problem, the tingling sensation or numbness will come and go throughout the day, is triggered by certain body positions, and usually occurs in one arm, hand, leg, or foot.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed when the median nerve is being pinched at the wrist. Symptoms of carpal tunnel usually include tingling sensations in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. This can happen when the median nerve swells due to repetitive or tight gripping, or if pressure is applied on top of the nerve from activities such as carrying a heavy bag or typing for long periods of time at a computer. In severe cases, pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands may disturb sleep.

Cubital tunnel syndrome is caused by irritation of the ulnar nerve, which passes over the elbow, and usually causes tingling or numbness in the ring and pinky fingers. This nerve may become irritated from leaning on the elbow or keeping the elbow bent for long periods of time.

However, these are not the only causes of tingling in fingers. A herniated disk can cause a burning, stabbing, or tingling feeling down the arm. Nerve damage caused by diabetes can also cause constant numbness and tingling in the feet, hands, and fingers.

When a patient comes to Sheltering Arms outpatient physical or occupational therapy with reports of a tingling in one hand, we first determine where the nerve is being pinched. The location of the tingling gives us the first clue as to where the problem is located. This information, along with the results of other special tests we complete, helps us identify where the nerve is being pinched. Once we know the origin of the tingling sensation, our therapists can begin treatment to reduce and hopefully eliminate the discomfort.

If you experience any of the above issues or have an impairment of the wrist or hand, click here to learn more about the types of physical therapy treatments we offer, or call us at (804) 764-1000 to schedule an appointment with one of our hand therapists.