Tingling in Your Hands? It Could Be This

Edward Akelman, MD

Most people are familiar with that “pins and needles” feeling. Often, it’s a harmless occurrence, but sometimes it can signal something more serious.

If you’re feeling tingling, numbness or pain in your hands that wake you up at night, it could be carpal tunnel syndrome.

This condition is caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist, limiting blood supply to the nerve in this area. The median nerve is associated with the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers and these are the digits affected by this relatively common problem.

The symptoms

The most common symptoms of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • being awakened at night from sleep, with tingling in thumb, index, middle finger, and half of ring finger
  • pain in the fingers and palm
  • pain that radiates up into the forearm and upper arm
  • a feeling of “pins and needles” in these fingers of the hand 
  • an inability to hold onto objects or dropping objects because of loss of feeling in the fingertips


Carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed by an evaluation with a hand surgeon. The surgeon will assess your medical history and perform a physical examination of the fingers, thumb, and wrist. Your doctor may also order a nerve test called electromyogram and nerve conduction velocity testing.


The type of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is based on the length of time patients have had the condition. Wrist splints are often recommended, which often results in improvement of the numbness, tingling and pain for most patients. Occasionally, the use of a cortisone injection is required in addition to the use of the splint. Finally, in patients who do not see improvement with these conservative treatments, surgery may be an option. This surgical procedure is extremely successful and is one of the most common surgeries performed today.

The causes

No specific cause is known for carpal tunnel syndrome; however, it is believed that frequent, repetitive movements can result in the compression of the nerve. Other conditions that may impact it are hormonal changes, injuries, arthritis and more.


It is very difficult to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. It is important to address worksite issues, like ergonomic positioning of your workstation and keyboard. Some patients may find some relief through physical therapy and stretching exercises as well.

If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, we can help. Learn more on our website.

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