Although carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition associated with numbness in hands, it is not the only cause. Other potential causes are listed below.
In addition to numbness, compression neuropathy can cause weak or twitchy muscles. Compression neuropathy is pressure on a nerve (Figure 1). The pressure may come from an injury, thickened muscles, enlarged blood vessels, ganglion cysts, etc. Types include:
Sometimes, a nerve may suffer from pressure at more than one area. This is called “double crush.” Pressure on a nerve may require surgery to get relief.
With this condition, there may or may not be pain, and the numbness is often constant and very general in location. Diabetes, alcoholism, and old age are common known causes of neuropathy. Poisoning from metals and industrial compounds are also possible causes.
Millions of Americans suffer from this condition, which can last for years or indefinitely. People with fibromyalgia have been shown to be more likely than others to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and may seek surgical treatment, which can only help carpal tunnel syndrome if it exists with fibromyalgia.
People with this condition have persistent pain, frequently in many areas throughout the body, as well as fatigue, headaches, bowel problems, depression, sleep problems and other generalized symptoms.
This is another condition known to cause numbness in hands. It has some symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, specifically numb hands and numb forearms, often with aches and pain. Although the symptoms may be felt in the hands, the muscles causing the problems are usually those in the neck and shoulder region. The symptoms are usually stiffness and may be associated with frequent headaches.
There is no hand surgery to correct or improve symptoms with this condition.
Certain medications, such as cancer treatment drugs, are known to cause tingling and numbness in hands. Some of these cause temporary numbness that goes away after completion of the chemotherapy treatment. Others may cause permanent numbness.
Other causes of numb hands may include:
The pattern and distribution of symptoms can help determine if the cause is pressure on a nerve, a disease, medications, nutritional or another condition. Depending on the suspected cause, further tests such as an x-ray, an MRI, nerve tests (such as EMG), blood tests, or a spinal tap may be used to help confirm a diagnosis. Specific treatment recommendations can then be made by your specialist. You may also be referred to other specialists such as a neurologist, rheumatologist, pain management specialist, or other.
© 2016 American Society for Surgery of the Hand
This content is written, edited and updated by hand surgeon members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.Find a hand surgeon near you.