Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why are my arms and hands often numb?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy are my arms and hands often numb?


I'm a 24 year old female who works at a school. For the past several months, I have had shooting pains and numbness in one or both hands and arms. It is particularly bad when I am trying to go to sleep and upon waking. I've tried to vary my physical activity, but this has had no effect. Sometimes my arms will remain numb for the entire day. What could be causing this? What can I do to prevent it and alleviate it?


Some questions to consider to help elucidate the cause of this arm and hand numbness include does the shooting pain go through the entire arm or along the front, back or side of the arm and hand? Do you have any associated neck pain? Have you had any problems walking? Do the symptoms worsen or improve with neck motion, (i.e. sudden shock like pains when you look upwards or move your neck in certain positions? Have you had any recent trauma to your neck? The answers to these questions, along with your medical history and clinical exam will help your primary care doctor decide upon the appropriate work up. This may include imaging studies or perhaps a referral to a specialist. In terms of the possibilities that this could be, there is a possibility from your story that you are having symptoms from a compressed nerve as it exits from your spinal cord in your neck. This may be caused by a herniated disc for instance. Another possibility is that you have injured the plexus of nerves that lies along your collar bone, which could also cause some of the same problems. The best thing to do is be evaluated by a primary care doctor who can decide upon further work up studies as needed.

Zocdoc Answers 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 (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.