Mild, occasional finger and hand numbness is often nothing to be concerned about and is usually alleviated by changing position. In some cases, the problem can be ongoing and may be due to underlying orthopedic conditions. There are three major orthopedic concerns that may cause numbness in your hands.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common orthopedic concerns causing numbness in the hands and fingers. Specifically, the numbness occurs in the first three digits and half of the fourth digit on the hand and the corresponding part of the palm. Repetitive hand use is the most common culprit, such as typing. Some women also experience carpal tunnel during their pregnancy because they may retain fluid that causes compression of the radial nerve. Depending on the extent of the problem, weakness and decreased grip strength may also become a problem.
Fortunately, many cases of carpal tunnel syndrome are mild and only require changes in repetitive movements. For example, if you type often, taking frequent breaks and using gel pads to support your wrists may help. Splinting the wrists is another option to keep the hand in alignment with the wrist and reduce compression of the radial nerve. Surgical interventions are necessary when conservative treatments are ineffective or there are ongoing concerns about nerve damage. During surgery, carpal tunnel is released to give the radial nerve more space.
Cubital/Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome affects half the fourth digit and the entire fifth digit of the hand and includes numbness of the corresponding portion of the palm. Most cases of cubital tunnel syndrome are positional and are easily alleviated and prevented by not resting on your elbows. When cubital tunnel syndrome is easily aggravated, it is often because of underlying arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, or bursitis.
In these cases, the nearby joint or soft tissue is inflamed and contributes to irritation and compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. Less often, compression may be caused by inflammatory processes or injury at or near the shoulder. Ulnar tunnel syndrome is similar, but the underlying problem is irritation or entrapment of the ulnar nerve occurring at the wrist. Releasing the cubital or ulnar tunnel is an option when the problem is continuous.
Compartment syndrome can occur in any extremity and is most often caused by acute trauma. When there is increased pressure inside the "compartment," the muscles and other soft tissues become compressed, which can lead to damage. One type of injury you should be concerned about, especially if you are on anticoagulant therapy, is a large bruise (hematoma) that becomes increasingly worse. This is often caused by a hard fall or blunt force trauma. Since small blood vessels under the skin may continue to bleed after the initial impact, the bruise may slowly expand. As the bruise grows in size, the blood collecting under the skin has nowhere to go and can begin to compress nerves in your arm or hand.
Treatment for compartment syndrome depends on the underlying cause. In the case of an expanding bruise, an incision and drainage (I&D) may be necessary. During the procedure the blood is drained to alleviate pressure. Depending on the age of the bruise, it may be drained with a large needle, or once the blood has coagulated, an incision will be made and the blood clots will be "milked" out of the incision. For other causes of compartment syndrome, such as swelling, a surgical procedure is used to release constricting fascia and allow the area to expand and contract without causing damage.
Due to the extensive network of nerves leading to the hands and fingers, numbness in these areas are often more noticeable and impactful on daily functioning. Fortunately, most underlying conditions can be treated without long-term impact on hand functionality or sensation. For more information, visit a site like http://www.towncenterorthopaedics.com.