Numbness is an abnormal sensation in the body, which can be accompanied by tingling sensations. Numbness may be felt in all parts of the body, but the most common locations are the arms and hands. Arm numbness involves either unilateral (one arm) or bilateral (both arm) affectation. The numbness may extend from the shoulder joint to the hands and fingers.

There are various causes of arm numbness and all of these are usually examined using the actual symptoms of the patient to determine the cause of the abnormal sensation. Arm numbness is usually a symptom of a wide array of disorders, disease and conditions that affect the nerves and the blood flow to the arms.

Temporary numbness in the arms can be a result of prolonged pressure on the nerves in the area. This may result from sleeping with the arms under the body or even after fine motor activities such as drawing. When the arms are compressed, the blood flow to the area is minimized affecting the nerves as well.

Recurrent arm numbness, on the other hand, can be a result of a number of factors that may be moderate to serious affecting the orthopedic, circulatory and the nervous system. Specific causes for arm numbness include:

Orthopedic Conditions 

Orthopedic conditions have the possibility to injure adjacent nerves where the injury is present. Specific causes of arm numbness may include:

  • Fracture-A break in the bones in the arms may damage the underlying nerves.
  • Tight cast- A tight cast may put pressure on the underlying nerves causing numbness.
  • Spinal cord injury- SCI can lead to numbness or loss of sensations in areas below the affected spine. Arm numbness can result from cervical or neck injuries.
  • Disc herniation- Like SCI, disc herniation in the cervical spine can yield to numbness on the arms.

Circulatory Conditions

As stated, any reduction in the blood flow in the arm can affect the sensation on the nerves that supply the affected area. Circulatory problems involve:

  • Buerger’s disease- Buerger’s disease or thromboangitis obliterans is a condition involving the blockage of the blood vessels of the hands and feet.
  • Arteriovenous malformations- The presence of blockage or knots in the blood vessels can also obstruct the blood flow leading to arm numbness.
  • Peripheral artery disease- This condition involves the narrowing of the arteries in the peripheral areas in the body such as the arms and legs. This can be a result of cholesterol plaques and even smoking.

Nervous System Conditions

Factors affecting the neurological system, which is the main pathway of nerve impulses, may definitely lead to arm numbness. Conditions may include:

  • Diabetic neuropathy or damage to the nerves as a result of high blood sugar levels
  • Peripheral neuropathy resulting from vitamin B deficiency
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Transverse myelitis

Aside from these, alcoholism and chronic fatigue may also lead to numbness because of reduced glucose levels in the body that may affect the functioning of the nerves.

Arm numbness can be a minor complaint; however, the presence of the above causes may actually lead to damaging complications such as arm disability, amputation, paralysis and permanent loss of function. In this line, if you feel some recurrent numbness and tingling sensations in your arms and other parts of the body, visit your doctor for appropriate managements.