numbnessWhat is it?

Though Carpal Tunnel syndrome (CTS) may be a common cause of numbness, tingling or pain in the forearm or hand, it is certainly not the only cause.  Those symptoms are often mistaken for CTS due to the fact that many people (including some medical professionals) aren’t familiar with other conditions that give rise to these symptoms.  There are, however, several other reasons you may be experiencing symptoms that are identical to CTS.

Other common problems that involve numbness:

  • Compression neuropathy, or localized nerve pressure, can result in numbness that is felt in the area served by the pressured nerve.  Along with numbness, you might experience muscle weakness, wasting, or twitching.  This can be caused by thickened muscles, injury, enlarged blood vessels, ganglion cysts or arthritic spurs.  One common example is ulnar nerve compression, which causes tingling in the pinky finger and ring finger or the back of the hand.  Radial nerve pressure results in numbness in the thumb, index finger and the web between those two digits.  Surgery may be required to relieve nerve pressure.
  • Hand and forearm nerves actually begin in the neck.  Many hand/arm conditions are caused by pressure on the nerves located in the neck.  Arthritis can be the cause of bone spurs or a narrowing of the spinal column nerves which reach the upper limbs.  Numbness in the arm or hand can sometimes be caused by infections, tumors, diseases, blood vessel abnormalities or other spinal cord conditions.  Pressure on neck nerves may also cause problems with arm reflexes.
  • Nerves are sometimes pressed in multiple areas.  The same nerve can be compressed in the neck, and then again in the wrist.  This problem is called “double crush” and happens because a nerve weakened in one place is more likely to have pressure issues in another area.
  • More serious central nervous system diseases also result in numbness and tingling.  Strokes, multiple sclerosis and other brain/spinal cord disorders may present with these symptoms.
  • Peripheral neuropathy might be suspected if numbness, tingling and burning is more generalized in various areas of the limbs.  Pain might or might not be present and there is often constant numbness.  Neuropathy is commonly caused by old age, diabetes and alcoholism.  More unlikely causes include poisoning from metal and industrial compounds.
  • Some medications, like cancer treatment drugs, have been shown to cause numbness and tingling in the hands.  Sometimes, these symptoms disappear after the treatment is completed, but numbness can also be permanent.
  • Vitamin B1 deficiencies, as well as other nutritional deficiencies, may cause numbness and tingling.

We will determine the nature of your condition by analyzing the pattern and distribution of symptoms.  Depending on the suspected cause, we may order tests that include x-rays, MRIs, EMGs (nerve tests), or blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and recommend effective treatments.