Hand numbness comes from trapped nerves

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January 3, 2019 - 9:22 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: For the past four weeks now, I wake up during the night because both of my hands have gone numb. I work my hands to get the feeling back and walk around my house for about 20 minutes as I do hand exercises. This happens two or three times during the night. During the day I have no issues. I’m 69 years old, female, in good health and take no medicine. Is this cause for concern? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d appreciate your advice. — J.C. 

Answer: By far, the most common cause of intermittent hand numbness is compression of the nerves of the hand, which happens in one of three common places: the carpal tunnel of the wrist; the cubital tunnel of the elbow; or the cervical spine, as a result of a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. The exact location of the symptoms gives a clue to which of these three it is. 

Symptoms that are worse on the thumb side of the hand, with a sparing of the little finger, are coming from compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. These symptoms may also feel like they travel up the arm, as high as the elbow, and only occasionally higher. 

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