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Nerve Irritation
September 2003

Q. I am experiencing numbness in my hands doing ordinary tasks, such as typing, driving and work duties (drilling wells, installing water pumps, etc.) I am also experiencing the numbness at night and in the morning when I wake up. What could be the possible cause(s) of this?

A. Numbness, as well as tingling and pain, are often signs that a nerve is irritated. The main nerve bundle from the spine to the muscles of the arm travels through the axilla (armpit), around the elbow, then down to the wrist and hand. The nerve can easily get irritated from trauma or a lot of activity such as the physical work you do.

A simple physical exam may clarify the situation. Your doctor may want to order some tests to determine the location and cause of the problem. If needed, tests might include x-rays to look for problems in the spine as the nerves originate here (examples: bone malalignment, arthritis) and possibly an EMG which examines nerve conduction (example: carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist).

The treatment will depend on the results of your exam and any other tests establishing the diagnosis. A specialist in neurology can help with this evaluation if the situation persists.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003206.htm

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and_medical/disorders/peripheralneuropathy_doc.htm

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