Numbness and tingling in your hand or arm is disturbing. Not knowing what is causing it can lead to sleepless nights. You then schedule an appointment with your doctor only to be given pain medication and muscle relaxers that don’t really solve the problem. Which can lead to increased stress and anxiety about what is really going on.
What Is Causing My Arm Tingling and Numbness?
There can be many causes of arm numbness and tingling but the simple fact is that there is pressure on your nerves. The nerves that go into your hand start in your neck, travel through the front of your shoulder, and down into your hand. The nerve can get compressed along the way which causes symptoms including hand tingling, finger numbness, forearm “pins and needles” sensation, and upper arm tension.
We have been seeing an increased number of people who are struggling with arm and hand numbness and tingling here at PT4EB. Katie came to see us 3 months after her hand started tingling every night when she went to bed. She was fine during the day when she was up and moving but as soon as she laid down in bed her symptoms would keep her from sleeping, causing her anxiety to sky rocket as she laid awake frustrated by her lack of sleep.
Katie had been to the doctor who gave her pain medication and muscle relaxers which did knock her out but did nothing to solve the problem. She was frustrated that she couldn’t get a good nights sleep, concerned about her lack of energy, and getting really irritable – which is not how she wanted to show up in the world.
When Katie found relief from her symptoms through working with us she was able to get back to her normal busy routine and show up as the person she wanted to be at work and with her family and friends. She cried happy tears when she reported that she was now able to sleep through the night without arm tingling and didn’t have to worry about how she moved during the day.
The most common causes of this compression of the nerves are:
- 1Poor posture – The most common cause of arm tingling is poor posture. Prolonged periods of sitting or standing in a position that puts increased stress on the nerves as they exit at the neck or travel along the front of the shoulder can lead to the tingling or numb feeling in the arm and hand. These symptoms will often be relieved by changing your position or stretching to relieve pressure on the nerves.
- 2Prolonged pressure on the nerves – Sleeping with your arm under your head or body can compress the nerves and restrict blood flow, causing temporary tingling. If you find yourself waking up with arm tingling you might benefit from hugging a pillow to support your arm while sleeping.
- 3Nerve compression or entrapment – You may have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, or thoracic out let syndrome which involve the compression or entrapment of nerves at specific locations. The nerves can get compressed at any point along their journey from the neck down into the hand by bones, muscles, ligaments, or fascia. The tricky part is finding a specialist who can identify the location of the entrapment and the structure that is causing the pressure on the nerve.
- 4Circulation Issues – Poor blood circulation can lead to a tingling sensation in the arms. This can be caused by conditions like atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease but can also be affected by muscles, ligaments, or fascia placing increased pressure on the nerves.
Can Anxiety Cause Arm Tingling?
Anxiety causes a whole host of symptoms in our bodies that can then lead to arm tingling. Being anxious causes your body to be in “fight or flight” which forces blood to the vital organs (heart and lungs) and away from the extremities (arms and legs). It also causes a more shallow breathing pattern which uses the breathing muscles in our neck that get tense. These muscles can then compress the nerves causing arm numbness and tingling.
Is Arm Tingling a Sign of Heart Attack?
A sudden onset of arm tingling is one sign of a heart attack. If your arm starts tingling suddenly you want to look for the other signs which include shortness of breath, intense pressure in the chest (often described as an elephant sitting on your chest), and pain in the stomach that feels like indigestion. A heart attack is a medical emergency and you need to call 911 immediately if you are having these symptoms.
How To Stop Arm Tingling and Numbness
There are some simple steps that you can take right now to eliminate your arm numbness and tingling.
- 1Change your position – Your posture affects the pressure on the nerves causing your symptoms. If you are sitting or standing then correct your posture to decrease tension or compression on the affected nerves. Modify your sleeping position by hugging a pillow with your arm or sleeping on a pillow that helps your neck maintain a neutral position.
- 2Gentle stretching – Gentle stretches including rolling your shoulders, light arm circles, or making “snow angels” can decrease pressure on the nerves by moving the muscles and stretching the fascia.
- 3Deep breathing – Performing a deep, diaphragmatic breath allows the muscles of the neck to relax and activates the vagus nerve. This helps to decrease tension as well as decreasing your bodies stress response.
- 4Get moving – Cardiovascular exercise from walking, running, biking, swimming, or enjoying your favorite activity improves blood flow, release endorphins, and can decrease symptoms of arm numbness and tingling.
- 5Get help from a Specialist – Finding the root cause of your arm numbness and tingling can be difficult as the nerves travel from the neck all the way down the arm. It’s a long path with many possible compression points – and you may have more than one! Working with a Specialist who takes the time to understand your specific symptoms is critical to getting the relief your are looking for. At PT4EB, our Specialist Physical Therapists are trained to test the nerves in your body to learn your unique pattern that is leading to your specific symptoms. If you are done dealing with this issue and ready to eliminate your arm numbness for good then we encourage you to sign up for one of our Free Discovery Vists. During this visit we will listen to your journey, decide if we are a good fit for your needs, and discuss next steps. This visit is 100% free and offered because we only work with patients we know we can help.
Looking for more information on arm numbness and how everything is connected in your body? Then check out Dr. Amy’s new book: Movement Is Life . This book is filled with Dr. Amy’s top ideas to help your body move pain free.
Ready to start your journey to eliminating your arm numbness and tingling? Then we recommend you sign up for one of our Free Discovery Visits. During this complimentary visit, we will hear your journey and together determine what your next best steps are.