Why is my Thumb Numb?

Why is My Thumb Numb And How To Treat It?

Decreased sensation or pins and needle sensation are in layman terms known as Numbness. When they are actually two distinct symptoms although clubbed and referred to as one. It for a physician to take proper history to identify the symptom being described. Numbness can be due to the decreased blood supply to the region or due to damage to the nerve supplying the said part.

Many times numbness in the thumb is simply due to thumb falling asleep having been in the same position for a long time. This is commonly seen in individuals who have a desk job where they are essentially typing for long hours. Another common presentation is due to resting the elbow on the table for long hours in case of students or when lying on stomach and using elbows to position oneself in front of the laptop.

Numbness being related to nerve function may also be seen in case of stoke. In which case it is associated with chest pain radiating to the arm and should be evaluated as soon as possible.

Causes of Numbness in Thumb

  1. Numbness in thumb may be due to carpal tunnel syndrome, which is mainly due to compression of the nerve.
  2. Arthritis in the upper limb which compresses the median nerve and present and tingling sensation of the thumb.
  3. Ulnar nerve compression also causes numbness in the thumb.
  4. Peripheral Neuropathy -It may be the reason for your numb thumb. Damage to the peripheral nerves, often causes weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in your hands and feet.
  5. Long Term Diabetes Mellitus -It is one of the greater the risks of developing neuropathies. Neuropathy may affect about 50% of people suffering from diabetes. The initial symptoms first manifest as numbness or pain in the hands, feet, arms or legs.
  6. Ganglion cyst -A ganglion cyst is a non-cancerous lump filled with fluid like substance that develops mostly in the joints and tendons of one’s wrist. When this cyst applies pressure to the median nerve that runs down the middle of a person’s arm, it can cause numbness or tingling in the thumb, middle, and index fingers.
  7. The cause of your numb thumb could be a Side effect of drugs that you have taken.

Stiffness of Thumb

Stiffness is mostly due to no change in position of thumb for long hours. Can be seen when chatting for long hours where the thumb are kept in partially flexed position after which stiffness is noticed when extending the thumb. This is also seen in people who type for long hours and a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome.

What Can You Do About It

Generally, numbness on waking up in the morning or due to overuse of thumb or carpal tunnel syndrome is all attributed to falling asleep of the finger and is gotten rid by shaking the hand. However, it is advised to pay attention to the numbness and pain in the thumb to rule out carpal tunnel syndrome or cubital tunnel syndrome.
Try to maintain a good blood circulation through self massage and exercises. Avoid smoking or drinking as it aggravates the situation.

Treatment Options

  • It is important you meet with your doctor if the symptom persists and reappears often.
  • Avoid sitting on the elbows for a long time while studying or at home and casually using the laptop.
  • Take short breaks while typing, one can use a squeeze ball to keep up the blood circulation.

Symptomatic treatment is given to alleviate symptoms of the specific disease. One should not forget it could probably be vitamin b12 deficiency manifestation which is easily treated by taking some supplement medication.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad