Understanding Numbness and Nerve Pain

A patient and I were discussing today how nice it would be if we could diagnose our health problems in a similar way to car problems. When we have problems with our car, our mechanic connects it to a machine that generates a diagnostic code. Unfortunately, with people, it’s not always easy to understand the source of pain or the cause of our limited mobility.  In healthcare we do have a variety of different testing or diagnostic tools but it still can be challenging to get to the root of the cause for what is going on when someone is having pain. 

What if you are experiencing numbness, tingling and/or pain in your fingers or hands?  As medical providers, we understand that this could be caused by issues stemming all the way to your neck.  It could also be coming from issues in your shoulder, elbow or wrist.

You may have what we call radiating symptoms, which include pain or a feeling that is not just in one area but moves to another area.  Sometimes it will follow in a line that you can feel numbness from your shoulder blade into your forearm or you might feel tingling only in your fingertips.  When there is degeneration in your neck or cervical spine this can cause damage or irritation to the nerves which travel all the way down to your fingers. 

There are 3 main branches of nerves:

  1. Median Nerve: This nerve runs along the inside of the arm and travels through into the 1st through 3rd fingers or thumb to middle finger.
  2. Ulnar Nerve: Runs along the inside of the arm and elbow and into the outer part of the hand and 5th digit or little finger. 
  3. Radial Nerve:  Runs along the back of the arm and into the 1st through 4th digits or thumb to ring finger. 

There can be many causes but there are also a wide variety of treatments for these very uncomfortable symptoms.  Because our bodies are so complex, we often need to address several areas to stimulate healing and help you feel better. Finding a well rounded team of providers will help you achieve the best outcomes from any necessary treatment. In our Champlin, MN clinic, we have medical, physical therapy and chiropractic providers that work together to understand the cause of pain and recommend the appropriate plan of action. 

Emily Franklin, PTA

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