Experiencing hand tingling and/or numbness?

Brooke Carmen

Author: Brooke Carmen, PT, DPT: Doctor of Physical Therapy and Blog Contributor.  Loves fun informational gems.  Fitness addict and wannabe foodie. Emphasizes patient-specific treatment style and promotes goal-oriented care. Learn more about Brooke on here.


You’re lying in bed watching a movie and you get up to grab a drink of water, but your arm is asleep. You’re typing at your computer and lift your hand to find that the outside is cold and numb. You’re scrolling through your phone for an hour and start to get a burning ache at the base of your thumb.

What is going on?

There are several reasons why you may experience arm, hand, and/or wrist numbness, tingling, and/or pain. Let’s discuss some of the most common cases.



This refers to your arm “falling asleep.” In some prolonged positions, you can block blood flow to your arm and alter nerve signals. This results in a “stocking glove” sensation of the arm and hand, meaning, the whole arm is asleep. This is not concerning unless it lasts for excessively prolonged time. It is fixed by changing the position of your arm, or “shaking it out.”



The ulnar nerve is one of three major nerves in your arm. It passes through your elbow. When you hit it, we refer to this as your “funny bone.” When it is stretched for prolonged periods within the elbow, it can cause numbness and/or tingling on the outside of your palm into the pinky and ring fingers. Generally, people feel this when sitting or sleeping with their elbow bent for long periods of time.

Hand Carpal Tunnel


The median nerve is another of the three major nerves in your arm. It passes through the wrist and can become compressed, causing thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger pain and/or numbness and tingling. An easy way to test for this is placing your hands in a prayer position for 60s. Does it recreate your pain? You may have this syndrome. Fun fact, PT is found to be just as successful as surgery!

Diabetic Numbness/Tingling


Diabetes causes peripheral neuropathy which is when the nerves in your arms and feet become affected. This is managed with controlling blood sugar and with medication.

Cervical Spine X-ray


This is a “pinched nerve in the neck.” In your neck, there are nerve roots, or branches from the spinal cord. They can become impinged or “pinched” by narrowed space. The narrowed space can either be from an altered disc or bony abnormality. If the space is narrow enough, resulting in excessive pressure on the nerve, weakness can occur.

In more cases than not, hand and arm tingling is not as serious as you may think. A lot of the times, it is related to the positioning of your shoulder, elbow, and hand. However, when it is prolonged and frequent, the contributions can be a little more involved. That’s when you may want to speak to a health care provider regarding your symptoms. A physical therapist is an appropriate person to speak to!

Don’t self-diagnose if in question. Talk to us for free first through email or phone.