Tingling sensations in the fingers, medically known as paresthesia, could be due to a number of conditions, and it is a common problem in people of all ages. The feeling of “pins and needles,” or feeling like your fingers have “fallen asleep,” can be due to many reasons, and all are related to nerve compression. The body’s nerves send signals back to the brain, leading to the feeling of pins and needles if the sensory nerve is cramped in an awkward position. However, persistent tingling and numbness may indicate a more serious condition, such as nerve inflammation or injury.
Causes of Finger & Hand Paresthesia
Putting pressure on a specific point of the arms or wrists can compress any nerve that supplies sensation to the fingers, and depending on which fingers are affected, you can narrow down which nerve is being compressed. Usually, feeling is regained in a few minutes once pressure is taken off the nerve. An example of this is being struck in the elbow and experiencing intense, uncomfortable tingling in the litter finger (the “funny bone,” which is actually the ulnar nerve and not a bone).
Some examples of nerve compression that cause pins and needles in the fingers include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: The median nerve that travels through the wrist bones is called the carpal tunnel. When this nerve becomes compressed, carpal tunnel syndrome results in pins and needles in most of the fingers except the little finger and pain and weakness in the hands is a result.
- Cubital tunnel syndrome: The above-mentioned sensation of taking a blow to the inner elbow and hitting the ulnar nerve causes fleeting numbness and pins and needles in outer half of the ring finger and little finger. When this sensation persists, cubital tunnel syndrome is the result.
- Peripheral neuropathy: The peripheral nervous system comprises the nerves outside of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Peripheral neuropathy may be the result of peripheral nerve damage, which often causes tingling in the extremities, but especially the hands and feet. This condition can be caused by diabetes, injury, infection, or toxic exposure.
- Trigger finger: This condition results in a finger stuck in a bent position that may straighten with a sudden snap. It occurs when there is tendon inflammation in the affected finger.
- Systemic diseases: Nerve impingement is a common result of diseases like kidney disorders, liver disease, connective tissue disorders, and chronic inflammation.
- And others, such as injury, inherited disorders, alcoholism, or autoimmune diseases
Treatment for Pins and Needles
The treatment for pins and needles in the hands and fingers depends on the root cause. Underlying conditions such as diabetes must be properly controlled to seek relief, but sensation may also improve from rest, splinting, and anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, surgical treatment like carpal tunnel release can ease the pressure on the median nerve to allow full nerve functionality.
Contact OSSWF for Medical Advice
The occasional sensation of pins and needles is generally harmless, but a doctor should evaluate chronic pins and needles through a complete medical investigation to find the root cause and treat it accordingly. Our orthopedic surgeons at OSSWF are well versed in diagnosing, managing, and treating paresthesia.