Causes of numbness or tingling into the arms
The last two blogs have been geared toward the legs and how numbness may occur. This blog will look at how the arms can become numb!
Similar to the low back, the neck can also experience disc issues and result in the same numbness and tingling down the arms.
Tight muscles of the rotator cuff and neck can also refer symptoms down the arms.
The above picture is just one example where a tight muscle of the shoulder can actually send symptoms down the arm. If we are able to loosen up those muscle through muscle work, stretching or acupuncture, it often can relieve those symptoms.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
This syndrome can also present with symptoms down the arm. As you can see in the picture, there are a lot of structures that go through a small space. When this space is decreased even further by tight muscles (the pectorals – chest muscles, or the scalene muscles – neck muscles), it can result in symptoms down the arms. The treatment for this is similar to when a muscle is tight causing referral in to the arm. If we can loosen up the muscle, symptoms go away.
Similarly to the low back and leg blogs, symptoms can go down the arm if spinal stenosis is present or if joints are not moving well.
When looking at these types of conditions, it is also important to determine if the symptoms are from the neck down the arm, or does it start somewhere in the arm. Sometimes the symptoms start at the elbow and go in to the hand or at the wrist and go in to the hand.
A nerve on the inside of your arm (ulnar nerve) courses between different muscles as you can see in the picture. If these muscles become tight, it can affect that nerve resulting in symptoms from the elbow down the arm. There is a specific muscle (flexor carpi ulnaris) that has two different attachment points and the nerve courses through them so is often a good muscle to look at when these symptoms are present. If you loosen up the muscles, symptoms will go away.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is when a nerve (Median nerve) is affected at the wrist and then symptoms arise near the thumb. These symptoms could be numbness and tingling, weakness, and if not treated there could be wasting of certain muscles.
A good diagnostic test for this is a nerve conduction study where they determine how quickly the median nerve reacts to stimulation. If the reaction time is decreased it may be carpal tunnel syndrome. There is a flexor retinaculum (in the picture it is labelled the transverse carpal ligament). If the structures under this retinaculum don’t have enough space, then symptoms arise. The surgery for this is to cut the retinaculum freeing the underlying structures and decreasing the symptoms.
There are more reasons as to why symptoms can present down the arm, but these are the most common.
The Bottom Line
If you have any questions, or are experiencing any symptoms down your arms, don’t hesitate to contact us!