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Irritated Nerve
July 2002

Q. I am 55 years old. Every so often I have pain that starts in my shoulder, runs down to the elbow then makes my middle finger numb, then index and thumb. It is a searing pain and I am unable to close my hand completely or it takes a lot of effort. It moves from arm to arm, my left will sometimes do the same but mainly in the hand and it's usually the baby and ring finger. Last night my whole right arm had the burning sensation and it would oscillate up and down in intensity.

What is a good, over-the-counter remedy, if there is one? I took Alleve but that didn't seem to help much. As I type now both arms feel normal with only a slight feeling in the right hand that is just like the sensation when it is waking up after having been "asleep", and that is mainly in my wrist. Could it be Carpal Tunnel related?

A. When a nerve is damaged or irritated, the symptoms may include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in any area supplied by that nerve. So your symptoms certainly sound like a nerve problem. Your doctor will likely want to order some tests to determine the location and cause of the problem.

Tests often include x-rays to look for problems in the neck as the nerves originate here (examples: slipped disc, arthritis) and possibly an EMG which examines nerve conduction (example: carpal tunnel syndrome). The treatment will depend on the results of such tests establishing the diagnosis.



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