ZocdocAnswersMy arm sometimes goes numb. What could it be?

Question

My arm sometimes goes numb. What could it be?

My arm will go a little numb sometimes for no reason every once and a while. It will last for about a minute. Also, I get lightheaded a lot.

Answer

I would recommend that you seek evaluation from your doctor or healthcare professional so that you may undergo the appropriate testing if necessary and come a diagnosis in order to appropriately manage your symptoms. Arm numbness can have multiple causes, some benign and others more serious. Generally, numbness is thought to be related to malfunction of the nervous system, which can happen through multiple mechanisms. One source if often the back. If patients have spinal issues such as herniated disks or vertebral stenosis, there can be mechanical pressure on the peripheral nerves innervating your arm in specific distributions called dermatomes that may result in tingling, pain or numbness. If you have a history of back injury or chronic back problems, this may be important to further discuss with your doctor. In the arm, we also consider the complex of nerves referred to as the brachial plexus, which is found deep near the clavicle. This is a complex network of nerves that innervates the arm and hand, and injury or irritation of this complex can lead to changes in sensation and muscle weakness. Brachial plexus dysfunction is often a result of injury such as mechanical compression or arm hyperextension. Finally, local nerve damage to the cutaneous nerves in the arm can often lead to local changes in sensation. If you are experiencing numbness of your entire arm, then this is less likely. Again, please speak with your doctor or healthcare professional.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.