Numbness in Hands -- Causes and Cures
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May 20, 2013, last updated June 13, 2014

By Alison Turner,  Featured Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our panel of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial

If you've ever fallen asleep on your arm or hand you know
what numb hands feel like -- it's pretty safe to say most of
us have this experience in common.  However, if your
hands are numb and you can't shake it off, there could be
something more serious than a poorly-chosen sleeping
position going on.  Not only could this numbness be a
warning sign of a serious condition that should not be
ignored, but regular numbness could render you more
vulnerable to injury from bumps, burns, or cuts.

Numbness in the hands can result from an injured nerve,
pressure on the spine or other nerves from a herniated
disk, tumors, or infection, lack of blood supply to an area,
an animal bite, vitamin deficiencies, or a long list of medical
conditions including diabetes, migraines, multiple sclerosis,
and stroke.   

What can we do about numbness in the hands?  Because
numbness in the hands can be caused by so many different
conditions, a physician's primary goal is to diagnosis and
treat this condition.  Knowing what some of the
associations between hand numbness and other conditions
are could help you and your doctor to streamline the

Check out the list below of connections between numbness
in the hands and a variety of conditions, as recently
discovered by experts from around the world.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Numb Hands

Every hand has a median nerve that controls sensations for
much of the hand, and many median nerves have a risk for
becoming compressed.  Congenital predisposition, injury,
arthritis, work stress, and repeated motions could cause
pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand, that sometimes
spreads to the wrist and arm and is known as carpal tunnel
syndrome.   Researchers in Canada have found that
therapy involving “traction sessions” may help to mitigate
carpal tunnel symptoms including numbness in the hands.

In 2004 experts in Ontario, including Dr. David Brunarski
with McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton,  
encountered a patient who had suffered “hand numbness
and pain for eighteen months” that sometimes even woke
her up at night.  Her work involved “writing, and typing on
an adding machine or computer.”  In depth analysis
revealed “evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.”  

The patient above was treated with “twelve wrist traction
sessions” over a two month period.  Traction treatment
included a pneumatic device that applied force to the
forearm in intervals.   Her wrists became less tender, and
she then “enjoyed” hand sensation.  

Hand-Foot Syndrome – and its Medication – Could Make
Your Hands Numb

Hand-foot syndrome (HFS) is not something made up for a
young adult TV series.  It is a real condition that shows up
as tingling, pain, erythema, dryness, rash, swelling, and
numbness in the hands and/or feet.  The condition is
usually seen in both the hands and the feet, though with
varying severity.  

In 2010, researchers at Yale teamed up with others in
Turkey, including Umut Disel with the Baskent University
School of Medicine in Adana,  for the treatment of a 65 year
old patient who developed hand-foot syndrome as well as
skin scaling on his left palm after taking medication for
advanced gastric cancer.  He had been taking a drug called
capecitabine twice daily.  After ceasing this medication, the
hand-foot syndrome symptoms “resolved in a week’s

If you’re taking any medications – not necessarily just
capecitabine – and your hands have been going numb,
consider double checking the medication’s side effects and
consulting your physician.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Numb Hands

The everyday translation for arthritis is “inflamed joint.”  
Arthritis comes in many forms, and rheumatoid arthritis, a
symmetric form, may be the most likely to affect your
hands.  The American Society for Surgery of the Hand finds
that nearly two thirds of patients with rheumatoid arthritis
have wrist and hand problems.  Rheumatoid arthritis in the
hands can result in stiffness, swelling, pain, deformity,  and
numbness of the hands.

In 2008, Dr. M. Guler-Yuksel with Leiden University Medical
Center and other researchers in The Netherlands  evaluated
how the bone mineral density in the hands changes in 218
patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ensuing medication.  
After 1 and 2 years, results showed “significant” bone
mineral density loss in the hands.  Patients treated with a
combination of the medications prednisone or infiximabe
showed less loss than the other treatment types.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis you may have already
experienced these changes in your hands.  If this pain,
stiffness, swelling, or numbness is just beginning, consider
seeking treatment as soon as possible. (Read about
remedies that help arthritis.)

Neglecting Vitamin B12 Could Make Your Hands Numb

A, B, C, D?... who can keep track of all these vitamins?  
Some vitamins are even trickier, with attached numbers to
confuse us further: vitamin B1, for example, versus B12.  
This latter vitamin, however, may be one you want to keep
in mind if you’re worried about numb hands.  

In 2011, Cheng-Hsien Lu and other specialists at the
Department of Neurology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital
in Kaohsiung, Taiwan  reported on a 22 year old male who
had experienced weakness and numbness in all four
extremities (that means hands, too).  After much testing,
he was diagnosed with “acute polyneuropathy secondary
to vitamin B12 deficiency.”  The patient was treated with
oral and intramuscular injections of B12, and symptoms
improved within a year.

Adults should be getting around 2.4 micrograms of vitamin
B12 every day (a bit more if you’re pregnant or
breastfeeding).  Some foods are fortified with vitamin B12,
or you can get it from beef liver, clams, fish, dairy products,
and eggs.  

Clams are rich in Vitamin B12, supplying over 1600% of
the daily recommended amount. Oysters supply over 400%
of the recommended daily value of Vitamin B12.

If you feel you need to take a supplement, B12 contributes
to most multivitamins and could even be taken as a shot if
you have a diagnosed deficiency. (Read more about
Vitamin B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia) and foods that
can help.)

Graves’ Disease Without Vitamin D?  That Could Numb
the Hands

Graves’ disease is a disorder of the immune system and is
the most common cause of too much thyroid hormone, a
condition that is also called hyperthyroidism.  While
disease is usually not life-threatening, its symptoms can
negatively impact quality of life with anxiety, difficulty
sleeping, irregular heartbeat, moist skin, reduced libido,
diarrhea, and bulging eyes.  According to work in Japan, if
Graves’ disease patients also lack adequate vitamin D, their
hands could go numb.

This year, 2013, a large group of researchers in Japan
including Kazuyuki Miyashita with the Department of
Metabolic Medicine at Osaka University Graduate School of
Medicine  studied a 41 year old woman with symptoms
including fatigue and numbness in her hands and lips.  The
team found out the woman had Graves’ disease and had
also developed “symptomatic hypocalcemia with severe
vitamin D deficiency,” the latter of which was “due to
unbalanced diets and inadequate exposure to sunlight.”

The team concludes that more care should be taken with a
patient’s vitamin D status during the treatment of Graves’
disease.  And hey, if you don’t have Graves’ disease, why
not drink in enough sunny D anyway (not the sugary drink
from so long ago, but via the sun). The recommended
dietary allowance of vitamin D for adults is 600 IU a day.  If
you think that you do not reach this level, consider seeking
fortified foods  or spending more time in the sun.

The Wrong Household Products Could Make Your Hands

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Some detergents and makeup products
have been linked with numbness in
Clam chowder is rich in Vitamin B12
which helps to heal numbness in
hands and extremities.

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