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Waking Up With Numb Hands: Causes And Treatments

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Waking Up With Numb Hands: Causes And Treatments

Numbness in the hands is a fairly common issue and usually one we ignore. Your hand may be numb right after you wake up simply because you've put too much pressure on it while sleeping. Sometimes, however, numbness in the hands may be a symptom of chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or diabetes. A host of other conditions such as systemic diseases and medication can also cause numbness in hands. It is important to find and address the underlying cause of the condition.

We have all experienced numbness and tingling in our hands at some point, especially soon after we wake up. While the cause could be as simple as having slept on the arm for very long, chronic numbness in the hands needs to be checked by a doctor to detect the underlying cause.

You also need to factor in that numbness and tingling in the feet or hands is a common symptom of peripheral neuropathy, a condition that develops when nerves in the body’s extremities are damaged for various reasons. Diabetes is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy although there are many other triggers too.1

Reasons For Waking Up With Numb Hands

1. Bad Sleeping Posture

Sleeping on one arm for too long can cause numbness in that arm. This happens because the excess pressure on the arm compresses the nerves in the area, leading to a feeling of numbness.

2. Injury And Insect Bites

If you have injured a nerve in the neck area, you may feel numbness along your arm or hand. Animal bites, seafood toxins, spider and other insect bites can all cause numbness and tingling.2

3. Alcohol Abuse

Long-term abuse of alcohol can cause numbness too. Nerve cells damaged over time because of excessive alcohol consumption cannot be repaired, but damage can be halted by giving up or reducing your intake of alcohol. Alcohol abuse usually leads to nutritional deficiencies and that cause peripheral neuropathy too.3

4. Toxins And Medications

Nerve damage and, subsequently, peripheral neuropathy can happen due to chemotherapy drugs, some blood pressure and heart medication, tobacco, exposure to toxins such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, and certain solvents and insecticides too. The problem usually subsides with medication adjustments and stopping exposure to the toxins.4

5. Diabetes

Diabetic neuropathy can be a cause of numbness in the hands. High blood sugar levels in diabetics often damage the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the nerves in the peripheral parts of the body. The consequent scarcity of oxygen can cause serious nerve damage leading to numbness. However, numbness in diabetes usually begins in the feet and then proceeds to the hands.5

6. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is another reason for numbness or tingling in the palm, the thumb, and in the next two or three fingers of one or both hands. The area of your wrist where the median nerve enters the palm is known as the carpal tunnel. Any kind of swelling in this area can put pressure on the nerves flowing through, resulting in numbness and severe pain.6

7. Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The B complex group of vitamins is essential for several bodily functions, one of which is effective nerve signal transmission. In people who have deficiencies of vitamins B12 and B6, numbness is often observed in the arms and legs. This feeling of numbness is often described as “pins and needles.” Tackle your B12 deficiency without delay because it can even cause paranoia and hallucinations when severe.7

8. Other Diseases

Autoimmune diseases can lead to nerve damage too. Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and lupus can all cause peripheral neuropathy. Some conditions such as HIV/AIDS, Guillain-Barre syndrome, syphilis, multiple sclerosis, seizures, stroke, Lyme disease can trigger numbness in the hands. So can an underactive thyroid.8

How Can You Treat Numbness In The Hands?

1. Address The Underlying Causes

To treat numbness in the hands, you have to first address the underlying cause of the numbness. Peripheral nerves can be regenerated provided the damage is not already extensive, so any functional loss because of numbness can be recovered.9

2. Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle

While appropriate drugs and surgery, in certain cases, are options available to treat numbness, you can also try some natural steps to manage numbness and pain in the hands.

Adopt healthy lifestyle habits as these can reduce the effects of peripheral neuropathy. Maintain a healthy weight, eat balanced meals, avoid exposure to toxins, change any problem-causing medication, and start exercising to improve muscle strength and prevent muscle wasting.10

Stop drinking and smoking as these can worsen neuropathic symptoms by narrowing the blood vessels that provide nutrients to the peripheral nerves.11

3. Take B Supplements

If your numbness has been triggered by a vitamin B deficiency, you would be advised to take B supplements for some time. Remember never to overdose on these supplements as they can have harmful side effects. Asking for a doctor’s guidance is your best bet.

4. Use Capsaicin Cream

Neuropathic pains cannot be eased with normal painkillers and creams. An option is to use capsaicin cream on the painful spots. Capsaicin (the substance that makes chilli peppers hot) is believed to be able to stop the pain messages to your brain. The cream can sometimes cause skin irritation and burning when first used. So, do a patch test before using it.12

5. Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels

If diabetes is the cause of your numbness, it is essential that you closely monitor your blood sugar levels under medical supervision. By keeping diabetes in check, it is possible to alleviate numbness.13 Extracts of the jamun fruit, garlic, and fenugreek are effective natural foods that can help control diabetes, so include these in your diet.14

Diabetics and others who cannot feel pain because of numbness should cultivate self-care skills such as careful wound treatment to improve their quality of life.15

6. Exercise

If you’re experiencing numbness due to carpal tunnel syndrome, the treatment path would aim to reduce inflammation and pain by relaxing the muscles and improving blood circulation. Your doctor is likely to prescribe certain stretching and strengthening exercises like nerve and tendon gliding exercises that can help relieve the pressure on the wrist. In one study, participants who undertook these exercises, only 42% needed surgery compared to the 70% in the control group who did not perform these exercises regularly.16 Symptoms of numbness due to carpal tunnel syndrome can also be effectively relieved with daily massage.17

7. Try Yoga

Yoga is another way to manage pain and numbness caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. It helps improve the grip strength of suffering individuals.18

8. Give Ayurveda a Shot

You can also try an Ayurvedic regimen to manage carpal tunnel syndrome. Ayurveda believes that effective management of vata dosha will ease the suffering. It prescribes the Vatahara lifestyle combined with yoga and exercise.

  • Lifestyle changes include avoiding caffeine, tea, tobacco, and alcohol. Stimulants can interfere with peripheral circulation leading to nerve damage.
  • Avoid refined and cold dry foods, and eat hot cooked meals.
  • Regulate your daily routine and ensure that you get sufficient rest and sleep. –
  • Massage your wrist with sesame oil at least thrice a week.
  • Soak your hands and wrist in hot water every night as heat can relax the muscles and relieve pain.
  • You could apply a mix of turmeric and honey on the sore points.
  • Add ginger to your diet as it has strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
  • Other ayurvedic medicines that can effectively manage inflammation and pain include Chandraprabha vati, Dashmoolarishta, Kaishora guggulu, Lakshadi guggulu, Rasnadi guggulu, and Yograj guggulu. Do not start any ayurvedic medication without consulting an expert practitioner, though.19

Warning Signs: When You Should Never Ignore Numbness In The Hands After Waking Up

A visit to the ER or your doctor is called for immediately if20:

  • You experience numbness in any of your limbs just after a head injury.
  • If the numbness is chronic and seems to have no apparent trigger.
  • If you feel dizzy, have muscle spasms, or your general condition seems to be getting worse along with the numbness.
  • If you have an unexplained pain in your fingers, your forearm, or your neck.

Numbness of the limbs is often dismissed as a mild irritation. However, chronic numbness can make you less aware of your hand function and thus precipitate injuries. Moreover, if an underlying cause is causing the numbness in the hands, it is best addressed as soon as possible.

References   [ + ]

1. Peripheral neuropathy. NHS Choices.
2, 8, 20. Numbness and tingling. U.S. National Library Of Medicine.
3, 4, 9, 10, 15. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
5. Peripheral neuropathy – Causes. NHS Choices.
6. Carpal tunnel syndrome: 1-10.
7. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful. Harvard Medical School.
11. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
12. Peripheral neuropathy – Treatment. NHS Choices.
13. Numbness and tingling. US National Library Of Medicine.
14. Modak, Manisha, Priyanjali Dixit, Jayant Londhe, Saroj Ghaskadbi, and Thomas Paul A. Devasagayam. “Indian herbs and herbal drugs used for the treatment of diabetes.” Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition 40, no. 3 (2007): 163-173.
16. Rozmaryn, Leo M., Sam Dovelle, Esther R. Rothman, Karen Gorman, Kathleen M. Olvey, and John J. Bartko. “Nerve and tendon gliding exercises and the conservative management of carpal tunnel syndrome.” Journal of Hand Therapy 11, no. 3 (1998): 171-179.
17. Field, Tiffany, Miguel Diego, Christy Cullen, Kristin Hartshorn, Alan Gruskin, Maria Hernandez-Reif, and William Sunshine. “Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened following massage therapy.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement therapies 8, no. 1 (2004): 9-14.
18, 19. Shekhar, Somvanshi Jaydeep, and A. K. Rai. “Carpal tunnel syndrome–the painful tunnel.” Ayurlog: National Journal of Research in Ayurved Science-2014; 2(4): 1-10.