Numb thumb or numbness in the thumb and other fingers is one of the common reasons for consulting a neurologist. Numb thumb or numbness in the thumb is a condition where there is abnormal or decreased sensation in the thumb due to changes in the function of the sensory nerve.1 When this happens, a person experiences a tingling or a complete loss of sensation in the thumb. Numbness in the thumb occurs due to decreased blood supply in this region. A person experiences thumb numb due to nerve damage associated with the thumb. Most of the individuals who are suffering from a numb thumb often keep their hands in the same position, when playing games or typing for a long time. Thumb Numbness is quite a common condition and is rarely life-threatening. However, a numb thumb can also occur along with some life-threatening conditions, such as tumors or stroke.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the numbness in the thumb.
Why is My Thumb Numb: Causes of Numb Thumb or Numbness in the Thumb
- Numb Thumb or Numbness in the Thumb Caused Due to Arthritis: Arthritis in the wrists, thumbs or hands causes compression of the median nerve, which in turn causes tingling and numbness in the thumb and other fingers. In many individuals, there is swelling in the thumb joint which further compresses the median nerve. The swelling is the primary indication that arthritis is the cause of numbness.
- Numb Thumb or Numbness in the Thumb Caused Due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome commonly experience numbness in the thumb and other fingers. They often mistakenly think that this is because they have slept on their hand in the wrong position; whereas the main reason is the compression of nerves, which are present in this area resulting in numbness and tingling. Relief from numbness of the thumb can be achieved by shaking hands or moving the thumb and fingers until the normal feeling is restored.
- Numb Thumb or Numbness in the Thumb Caused Due to Double Crush: Double crush is a medical condition where there is compression of the nerves in 2 different areas of the arm, neck, hands or wrist leading to numbness in the thumb. A person may have one nerve compression in the neck and another in the wrist, which forms a double crush, resulting in numbness of the thumb or the complete hand.
- Other Causes that Can Make Your Thumb Numb include: Peripheral Neuropathy, Lyme disease, Raynaud’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, Ulnar Nerve Compression, Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Ganglion Cyst, Multiple Sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Spinal Cord Injury, B-12 Deficiency, Syphilis, Cervical Spondylosis, Vasculitis, side effect of drugs, chronic alcohol use, amyloid and chemotherapy.
Treatment of Numb Thumb or Numbness in the Thumb
Treatment for Numb Thumb depends on the underlying condition which is causing the numbness
- For treating thumb numbness caused due to chronic diseases, medications are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms, such as anti-inflammatory medicines, which help in reducing the pain and swelling associated with numbness in the thumb.
- For treatment of thumb numbness caused due to complicated cases where the numbness, pain and swelling are not relieved with the use of anti-inflammatory medicines, antidepressant drugs are prescribed to alleviate the pain. Antidepressants are given in very low doses and the patient is carefully monitored to ensure the efficacy of these medicines.
- In severe cases where there is persistent numbness of thumb and pain, medicines which are given include codeine and other opium derivatives.
- Trials are being conducted, which try to regenerate the damaged human nerves with the help of new medications and technologies.
Home Remedies for Numb Thumb or Numbness in the Thumb
- Massage can be done of the affected thumbs and hands until normal sensation is restored. Massage helps in increasing the blood flow to the hands and in alleviating numbness. Massage is especially beneficial when done under warm running water.
- Food items which cause worsening of thumb numbness should be avoided. These food groups include citrus fruits, dairy and wheat. Foods which are rich in calcium and potassium, such as leafy, green vegetables and bananas should be consumed.
- Exercises of the hands should be done by keeping them elevated. This helps in blood circulation.
- Severe cold conditions should be avoided and adequate cold weather protection should be worn in case of exposure to cold.
- When numbness and burning is experienced, patient should try to alternate between cold and hot packs to restore sensation in the thumbs and hands.
- If stress is the cause of numbness, then patient should try relaxation techniques, such as meditation to keep the stress under control.
- Drinking and smoking should be avoided, as this worsens the thumb numbness.
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