Pain and Numbness in Arms and Hands While Sleeping – What Is It? How Can I Treat It?
It’s not uncommon to experience numbness and pain in their arms and hands when they wake up. It often feels like the hands and arms are “asleep.” Numbness may occur when you sleep in a position that applies pressure on your hand or arm. As soon as you wake up, you may feel a needles and pins sensation in the affected area. Often, the numbness and pain are normal, but you might be surprised to learn that it can be a sign of a developing medical condition. You need to know the origin of the pain and numbness in arms and hands while sleeping to treat it.
Causes of Numbness in the Hands
Waking up with a numb sensation in your hands is very unsettling. Many factors can cause numbness. Here are the top reasons why you experience it.
When you sleep in a manner that compresses your hands, you’ll likely end up with numbness in this area the next morning. This is the most common root of pain and numbness in your arms and hands while sleeping. As the nerves in your hands or arms are compressed, blood flow is restricted. The result is a pricking feeling and numbness. The best solution to relieve the symptoms of such condition is to change your sleeping position every so often, or to sleep in a reclining chair or adjustable bed for optimum support and pressure relief.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The thin passageway located in front of your wrist called the carpal tunnel. This houses the carpal nerves. When it is compressed during sleep, carpal tunnel syndrome may occur. Tingling sensations and frailness in the grip strength are the usual symptoms. Other things may also trigger carpal tunnel, including prolonged typing, continuous machinery use, wrist trauma, or obesity.
Cervical (neck) Spondylosis
As you age your spinal disks in the neck weaken. This can cause cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis may cause bulging discs, osteoarthritis, and bone spurs. These symptoms can put pressure on the cervical part of the spinal cord, precisely the nerve root. A pricking sensation may be felt through your hands and arms, as well as your legs and feet. Cervical spondylosis can lead to more severe symptoms than just numbness and tingling. A person may experience a lack of coordination, difficulty walking, or loss of bowel and bladder function.
Peripheral Neuropathy (nerve damage)
Peripheral neuropathy affects the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system sends and receives the signals throughout the body from the central nervous system. There are over 100 kinds of peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms vary according to the nerves that are targeted. Manifestations may include the following:
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Tingling and numbness
- Buzzing sensation
Peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness and pain in the arms and hands or legs and feet.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
TOS is a category of condition that occurs when blood vessels or nerves in the upper chest and lower neck area get compressed, injured or distressed. The most common symptoms of this condition are pains in the shoulder, neck, hand, or arm. Often times, numbness in the fingers, hand, and forearm are also experienced.
When blood sugar levels increase, diabetes mellitus can develop. It is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The body needs insulin to move sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream to the cells. The glucose is what gives cells their energy. Approximately half of the patients who are diagnosed with diabetes suffer from nerve damage that includes carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes can cause nerve damage.
Chemotherapy and Other Treatments
Some forms of chemotherapy can trigger peripheral neuropathy. Other medications can also cause peripheral neuropathy. These include blood and heart pressure-reducing supplements, anticonvulsants, and several antibiotics such as Fluoroquinolones (Levaquin, Cipro) and metronidazole (Flagyl).
Excessive alcohol intake can affect nerve tissue, leading to alcohol neuropathy. Separately, alcoholism is linked to poor diet and loss of nutrients and vitamins in the body. These components can lead individuals who are heavy alcohol drinkers to suffer from tingling and pricking feeling in their limbs.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 is essential for the overall function of the brain, nervous system, and DNA synthesis. It is also essential to generate the production of red blood cells. Different factors can cause vitamin B-12 deficiency. A vitamin B-12 deficiency can be affected by hereditary, age, and medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and gastritis. When your vitamin B-12 is low, you can experience suppressed appetite, muscle weakness, and tingling sensations throughout your extremities.
Ganglion cysts grow along the tendons or joints in the hands or wrists. These cysts are noncancerous lumps. When they compress a nerve, numbness can occur in a person’s hands. Joint movement may also cause pain and restrict movement. Ganglion cysts usually disappear spontaneously even without any form of treatment or medication.
Other Diseases That Can Cause Numb Hands and Arms
Several other diseases can contribute to numbness in the hands. These conditions include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Lyme disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- HIV and AIDS
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
How to Diagnose Pain And Numbness In Arms And Hands While Sleeping
To determine the cause of pain and numbness, your doctor will examine you and interview you about any medications or treatments you are undergoing. In addition, the physician may order some testing.
- CT scan
- Nerve function tests, such as electromyography
- A plain film X-ray
- Blood tests
Apart from this, your doctor might also advise you to see a neurologist. They will do neurological tests to identify any anomalies further.
How to Treat Hand Numbness
The treatment for hand numbness varies depending on the cause. If numbness is an occasional occurrence, or it improves once you change your sleeping position, you might not need any treatment. However, if it lingers or worsens, you should check with your MD.
Aspirin and Ibuprofen are some of the Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that could help alleviate the inflammation and pain in the neck, hands and other parts of the body.
2. Anti-seizure medications
Medications that are associated with epilepsy may also be used to treat numbness and nerve pain. These include pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin).
3. Topical treatments
Topical menthol analgesics, such as Biofreeze, has been found to reduce hand and wrist pain by as much as 31% when compared to a placebo gel.
Antidepressants may be beneficial in treating nerve pain caused by diabetes and other conditions that cause numbness.
5. Vitamin B-12
For a vitamin B-12 deficiency, vitamin B-12 medicine via oral or injections can be given. Eating eggs, salmon, liver, and other vitamin B-12 foods may also prevent numbness.
6. Splints or wrist guards
Splints and wrist guards prevent pressure on the median nerve. This is a common conservative measure for alleviating symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are special exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome, and it can help reduce the symptoms and support muscle strength. There are also exercises to improve the symptoms of cervical spondylosis. These include strengthening, stretching, and proper posture.
If the treatments and exercises fail to work, the last option would be surgery. Surgery can free the compressed blood vessels or nerves that contribute to bulging disks, carpal tunnel, ganglion cysts, or TOS.
Lifestyle Changes – Numbness and Pain In Arms and Hands While Sleeping
By initiating lifestyle changes while you are awake, you may be able to lessen or alleviate pain and numbness while you sleep.
- Avoid repetitive hand and wrist movements whenever possible
- When you must use repetitive hand and wrist movements, take frequent breaks
- Try to use a neutral wrist position whenever possible
- Relax your grip when doing hand activities (including writing)
- Don’t hold objects for too long
- When lifting, use the largest joints whenever possible
If you wake up with numb hands once in a while, it is usually due to your sleeping position. However, if the numbness continues, and a change in your sleeping position doesn’t work, it’s time to see your doctor for a diagnosis. They can determine the cause and appropriate treatment.