Hand pain accompanied by tingling and/or numbness is typically experienced in only part of the hand, such as the thumb or a few fingers, but it can be felt in the entire hand.
This page reviews some of the more common causes of pain and neurological symptoms in the hand—starting with problems in the neck or cervical spine and comparing with other likely causes.
Common Causes of Chronic Hand Pain and Numbness
Three common causes of hand pain and numbness that lingers or becomes chronic include:
- Cervical radiculopathy. When a cervical nerve root in the neck becomes inflamed or compressed, such as from a bone spur or herniated disc, neurologic deficits of tingling, numbness, and/or weakness may be felt in the shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers. Cervical radiculopathy may sometimes be accompanied by shock-like pain. It is possible for the primary symptoms to be pain and numbness in the hand.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition involves the median nerve becoming irritated or compressed in the carpal tunnel, which is a bundle of tendons and ligaments running through the wrist and into the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome can feel similar to cervical radiculopathy because both may cause symptoms in the hand and wrist. However, cervical radiculopathy is more likely to be accompanied by other symptoms higher up the arm, such as additional pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disease can cause pain, tingling, and/or numbness in the hands, but it is usually felt symmetrically. So if a certain joint in the left hand is affected, then that same joint in the right hand is also probably affected. Cervical radiculopathy, however, is typically only felt on one side of the body.
See Hand Pain and Rheumatoid Arthritis on Arthritis-health.com
Sometimes more than one problem can be responsible. For example, if rheumatoid arthritis progresses long enough, the swelling in the wrist can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other Causes of Hand Pain and Numbness
Some other problems that can cause nerve dysfunction—also known as neuropathy—with symptoms of pain and numbness in the hand include:
- Diabetes. If diabetes progresses or isn’t managed with diet and/or medications, various complications can develop. One of the more serious complications of diabetes is neuropathy. For people who have diabetes, these symptoms of tingling and numbness usually start in the feet, but they can also occur in the hands.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency. Some people don’t get enough vitamin B12, whether through gaps in their diet, inability to naturally absorb enough of it, or as a side effect of a medical condition or treatment. Vitamin B12 is critical for nerve health, so low levels can harm the nerves and result in numbness and/or weakness. If a blood test confirms vitamin B12 deficiency, a doctor might recommend dietary changes or B12 supplements. Beef, fish, eggs, and fortified cereals tend to be good sources of vitamin B12. Vegetarians and vegans can get enough B12 with careful planning.1
- Alcohol abuse. Excessive amounts of alcohol can harm nerves. The manner in which the nerves are damaged by alcohol isn’t always known, but experts suspect that multiple factors could be at work, including increased difficulties with nutrient absorption and associated poor diet. Long-term alcohol abuse can also increase the risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.2
In addition, various diseases or a traumatic injury to the hand, such as a broken bone or deep cut, could lead to nerve damage that leaves part of the hand painful, numb, tingling, and/or weak. In rare cases, a problem in the brain or spinal cord could also cause hand pain and numbness.