Why do my fingertips go numb

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

16.02.2016

Numbness and tingling in the fingertips can be signs of carpal tunnel syndrome

Sensory disturbances in the fingers and pain radiating from the hand, which sometimes extend over the upper arm to the shoulder, can be the initial symptoms of the so-called carpal tunnel syndrome (KTS). The syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve on the wrist.

“Numbness and tingling often start at the tips of the first three fingers of a hand - that is, the thumb, index and middle finger. Over time, there is also slight pain, which occurs especially at night or after intensive manual labor. Those affected then tend instinctively to try to resolve the symptoms by shaking their hands, ”reports Dr. Curt Beil, from the Professional Association of German Neurologists (BDN) based in Krefeld. Muscle weakness of the hand with stiffness of the fingers can also be a symptom.

Muscle wasting in an advanced stage

In the further course of the disease, pronounced pain can develop that extends from the hand to the forearm to the shoulder and neck area. If the carpal tunnel syndrome has persisted for several years, the affected fingers can become numb and the thumb muscles weaken. “As the disease progresses, the ball of the thumb muscles visibly recede and the grip strength of the thumb decreases significantly. The pain can also subside, but this can indicate severe damage to the nerve fibers, ”warns the neurologist from Cologne. “If the disease is identified and treated early, the chances of a cure without any consequential damage are very good. It is therefore important and advisable that those affected see a neurologist when symptoms begin. "

The causes are poor posture and excessive strain

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common nerve constriction in the hand. It is caused by compression of the median nerve that runs through the carpal canal at the level of the wrist, along with the sight. “The nerve is constricted and damaged by constant pressure from the tissue surrounding the wrist and its ligament. In most cases, poor posture and simultaneous overloading of the wrist are the cause of the constriction, ”explains Dr. Ax. In addition, hormonal causes, such as during pregnancy or menopause, metabolic diseases, osseous deformations and rheumatic diseases can promote the syndrome. An injury to the hand or a broken wrist can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. In most cases, the diagnosis is easy to make, as the symptoms are often typical. It must be ruled out that the symptoms are caused by damage to the cervical spine. A measurement of the nerve conduction velocity, which a neurologist can make, can provide information about the extent of the damage. “In the early stages, immobilizing the wrist with the help of a splint may be sufficient. If necessary, anti-inflammatory and analgesic treatment can also be carried out, ”adds the neurologist. The intake of cortisone can also bring good results in some cases. If the symptoms persist for weeks, a low-risk operation may be necessary.

People who work a lot on the computer and also athletes with one-sided movements are particularly at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. You can prevent the disease by taking breaks and eliminating chronic stress problems as well as wrist protectors. When working with a computer, an ergonomically shaped keyboard is advisable as well as the use of a mouse whose dimensions match the size of the hand and which can be moved smoothly. Regular exercises that strengthen and loosen the wrists are also beneficial - for example, clenching your hand into a fist, spreading your fingers and shaking them out.

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