Hand Numbness & Arm pain
Hand numbness and arm pain, tingling or weakness can prevent normal functions of daily life. Learn more about how the arms, hands and fingers can be affected and the solutions for these problems.
what are arm pain and hand numbness?
Arm pain or hand numbness are not a medical conditions themselves, but rather a symptom of another problem (in the same way a fever is a symptom of a problem, such as infection).
why does it happen – arm pain & hand numbness?
Due to the location of the symptoms, many physicians assume the problem starts locally, such as in the surrounding muscles or other parts of the arm. This lead to treatments and procedures to treat those local structures, such as carpal tunnel surgery or shoulder surgery. In some cases pain medications or nerve blocks were used to inhibit the painful pathways. These procedures can offer short-term relief, but will not help long-term without addressing the cause.
Arm pain & Hand numbness causes?
Various disease conditions cause arm pain, hand weakness, numbness and tingling, including:
This arises from either trauma to the shoulder or to a progressive overuse, especially in older patients. If it is a single trauma, this is commonly a sports injury, such as when throwing or overhead movements with weight training. In older patients, rotator cuff injuries may be a result of progressive exertion damaging the small muscles that support the shoulder (rotator cuff) coupled with poor posture over a number of years. This will usually be accompanied by a dull ache into the affected shoulder.
This would be another form of injury or trauma, but may happen anywhere in the arms or hands and not just the shoulder. This can be from a particular incident or repetitive overuse (RSI). In tendonitis, the tendon becomes inflamed and may be tender to palpation or feel hot to touch. There may also be swelling for either sprains or tendonitis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes weaknesses, numbness and tingling in the hand and wrist. Typically caused by an increase in pressure on a nerve within the wrist called the median nerve. Certain symptoms include itching, burning or tingling sensation in the palm, thumb, index or middle fingers.
BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM CONDITIONS
Peripheral Neuropathy signals that there is a problem existing within the peripheral nervous system (the network of nerves outside your brain and spinal cord). This condition occurs when the nerve cells are damaged or destroyed. This nerve damage disrupts the communication between neurons and the brain resulting in the sensations of numbness or tingling (also known as “pins and needles”). If the peripheral isn’t curable, treatments such as Chiropractic and physical therapy are generally designed to help control and prevent further nerve damage.
The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. When a person suffers from spinal cord injury, the nerve cells and groups of nerves called tracts are also affected. These tracts in your spinal cord are responsible for sending messages from your brain to the rest of the body, and vice versa. Symptoms of this injury also include loss of sensation, numbness or tingling in your hands, fingers, feet or toes.
In extreme cases, arm numbness could also be an indication of heart attack or stroke.
The most common symptoms of a stroke include, but is not limited to, the sudden paralysis of a leg, arm or one side of the face as well as a sudden feeling of numbness, weakness or dizziness. A stroke occurs when there is an interruption in the blood flow to the brain. If you suspect that you or a loved one is experience symptoms of a suspected stroke, immediately see your doctor and get emergency medical attention.
A person experiencing a heart attack can experience severe chest pain along with tingling and numbness down their arm as a result of severe blockages in blood flow from the heart. Other symptoms may also include nausea, sweating, dizziness and shortness of breath.
What about hand tremors?
Hand tremors are unintentional movement of the hands. This presents as shaking or hand trembling. Tremors are usually caused by problems with areas of the brain that control movements, particularly at the brainstem, located in the upper neck.
This may be as action tremors or resting tremors. They may start less obvious and worsen over time. This may lead to difficulty in lifting items, carrying, hobbies, work and activities with their children. Tremors can accompany arm pain, numbness and tingling, especially when left untreated.
Current treatment includes medication, but doesn’t get to the underlying cause of hand tremors.
Numbness in fingers & Tingling sensation?
The nerves from the neck supply all parts off the shoulder, arm and hands. They then pass down to the fingers, with different fingers indicating different parts of the arm or neck which may be injured. Think of the nerves like train tracks, but instead of trains running along the tracks, it is information going from the brain (controlling the limb, such as movements or to heal injuries) or to the brain (reporting changes and sensations in the arm, such as feelings or pain).
If these pathways are broken down, it is not just arm pain or hand numbness that occurs. It can also be numbness in the fingers or a tingling sensation in the fingers. This sensation in the fingers (as well as pain or weakness), may not affect all the fingers but only certain ones, such as the thumb or the small pinky finger.
This numbness in the fingers can result in clumsy movements and increased incidence of accidents. A tingling sensation in the fingers can become annoying and make it difficult to perform normal tasks. Both a tingling sensation or numbness in the fingers can be a sign of a problem in the neck, especially if there has been no trauma or injury in the rest of the arm. This may start from poor postures or old traumas to the neck.
Triggers for Arm Pain & hand numbness
For many cases of hand pain or arm numbness, there is a physical trigger. This could be a fall, whiplash, injury, car accident or another insult to the neck, head, arm or hand. This damages the nerves (especially in the upper neck) making them more susceptible to producing symptoms, including those in the upper limb. Once there has been this injury, there can be triggers, such as:
Stress –numbness, weakness, tingling and pain in the arm or hand can follow times of higher stress. In these instances the brain works harder on the stressful event and arm symptoms can result.
Specific Head Movements – moving the head in certain ways can pinch the nerves in the neck which control the arm and hand, triggering an attack. This can also happen after injuries to the neck or head.
Medications – while these may not cause arm symptoms, they may trigger the pre-existing problem.
Exercise & Exertion – whether the nerve is being pinched or a muscle has been damaged, exercise can worsen the problem by incurring more damage onto the already injured nerves.
Hand numbness and arm pain diagnosis?
For most patients with arm symptoms, the first visit is to the GP and then a possible referral to a physiotherapist or possibly an orthopaedic surgeon.
Tests may include CT scans, MRI’s and nerve conduction studies. The doctor or physiotherapist will first exclude serious problems. If nothing is found the treatment options are fairly limited, with the only option being exercises, stretches or possibly surgery depending on the cause.
This may offer some temporary relief, but wont correct the cause, particularly if it is due to a pinched nerve in the neck.
Once serious diseases have been ruled out, there should be a thorough assessment of the upper neck, where the brain-stem and cranial nerve centres are located (the nerves which pass into the arm and hand).
For pinched nerves, the focus must be on the brain stem and nerve system to fix the problem and give a long term solution.
CURRENT ARM PAIN AND HAND NUMBNESS TREATMENT
Arm pain exercises
Depending on the type of arm pain, there are some exercises that can be helpful, such as seen in the video above.
How can chiropractic help Arm pain & hand numbness?
Research shows that a misalignment, known as a Subluxation, in the upper neck will put pressure on the brainstem. This leads to interference in the cranial nerve centres. These cranial nerves supply all control for the shoulder, arms, hands and fingers. When damaged, this can result in a lack of feeling, such as weakness or numbness, or an increase, such as tingling, cramps or pain. If the dizziness is worsened by the position of the head this is particularly indicative of an Upper Cervical Subluxation. Upper Cervical Chiropractic care is particularly effective at helping arm pain and hand numbness, as it specialises in the upper neck where the cranial nerve centres are located.
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