Why Is My Thumb Numb? Common Causes, Remedies, and Treatment Tips

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why is my thumb numb
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Why is my thumb numb? In today’s world of communicating via text, our thumbs may be getting more than just a major workout. A numb thumb may be a consequence of all of the ways we use our thumbs in the course of a day. While we may experience a tingling or numbness feeling in our thumb from time to time, there may be an underlying health condition that is causing persistent numbness.

We will look at the possible answers and offer options for home treatments.

When a numbness in thumb sensation is felt, the sensory nerve in the thumb and nearby region is mostly likely damaged or has suffered some type of affliction. Like other parts of the body, the functioning of our thumb relies on an adequate supply of blood. Without it, a partial or complete loss of feeling may occur. It may begin as a tingling sensation, as though our thumb is going to sleep before numbness sets in. This is seen with prolonged periods of typing, using the thumb to scroll through screens on a mobile device, texting, and playing video games with a hand controller.

Why Is My Thumb Numb?

A constant numbness in thumb is common, and is the main reason why many people are referred to a neurologist. Although there is no serious concern for this condition, a thumb with numbness may be an indicator of a life-threatening condition that can lead to stroke or a tumor. Let’s look at the top three numb thumb causes.

1. Arthritis

When we think of arthritis, we often think of inflammation of the joints of the knees or hands. In the hands, inflamed joints can cause compression on the median nerve. If the joint of the thumb is swollen from the inflammation, it gives a numbness or tingling sensation. The median nerve will become more rigid with the added pressure of the swelling thumb joint. Notable swelling of the thumb signals arthritis is present.

2. Carpal Tunnel

With carpal tunnel syndrome, the compression of the median nerve is again the main culprit—but at the site of the wrist. This can cause the numbness sensation in the thumb. It feels as though you slept on your thumb or left it in one position for an extended time period. Carpal tunnel presents many symptoms, including pain, but will give the thumb a tingling or numbness feeling that often dissipates with movement of the thumb.

3. Double Crush

A double crush syndrome is exactly as the name implies—a crush or compression of the nerves in two separate sites. This can involve the hand, wrist, arm, and even the neck. The nerves of the thumb may be affected by suppressed nerves in the hand at the same time of compression of the nerves in the upper arm. This also gives a numbness or tingling sensation in the thumb.

Other Causes of Numb Thumb

Thumb numbness may also be caused by minor and serious health conditions or may be a result of medication side effects, as seen with many chemotherapy drugs. Conditions that may present a numb thumb include syphilis, Lyme disease, Raynaud’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, paraneoplastic syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, cervical spondylosis, and type 2 diabetes. A numb thumb may also occur with HIV, AIDS, vasculitis, peripheral neuropathy, ulnar nerve compression condition, ganglion cysts, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, and with a deficiency of B12.

Numb Thumb Treatment

Medical treatment for thumb numbness is often advised for those conditions of a serious nature. The numbness is usually accompanied by other symptoms, and medications may help alleviate the discomfort. Doctors typically prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs for the swelling with numbness. They may sometimes use antidepressant medication in cases where the anti-inflammatory drugs are not successful in the treatment. These antidepressant drugs are prescribed in low dosages with close monitoring for any side effects.

There is ongoing technical and drug research in efforts to find a solution to restore severely damaged nerves.

Chronic cases caused by health diseases are often treated with anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling, pain, and relieve the thumb numbness.

Severe cases of thumb numbness call for a more serious treatment, such as with the use of potent drugs. These are opioid medications such as codeine.

Home Remedies for Numb Thumb

The numbness in your thumb may be eased, or possibly prevented, with simple changes to your thumb usage and lifestyle, and with home remedies.

1. Healthy Diet

Consume healthy foods that are enriched with calcium and potassium. Include bananas and green leafy vegetables in your daily diet and avoid foods that may promote numbness such as wheat and dairy products as well as citrus fruits. Avoid alcohol and tobacco use to prevent the numbness from worsening.

2. Hand Exercises

Improve blood circulation to the thumb by performing hand exercises. Elevate the hands as much as possible to prevent numbness from setting in.

3. Massage

Alleviate numbness by massaging the thumb and hand. This can improve the blood circulation to prevent the numbness from recurring. Massaging the thumb under warm running water may quickly return the feeling to the thumb.

4. Protective Clothing

Protect the thumbs, and body, from cold temperatures with protective clothing to prevent the tingling and numbness sensations.

5. Compresses

Cold and hot compresses may help with severe numbness. Alternate between the two types of packs.

6. Meditation

Use meditation and other relaxation methods to relieve any stress as this may produce a numbness sensation, as well as other symptoms.

A numb thumb is not considered to be a serious ailment. It may quickly disappear with a simple shake of the hand. In cases where the numbness persists, there may be an underlying health condition that requires attention. Inflammation, medication side effects, and disorders may be to blame for compression of the nerves. The numbness or tingling sensation may be accompanied by pain, swelling, joint stiffness, or discomfort in use of the thumb. Protect your thumb by maintaining a well-balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and trying to keep warm in cold climates. Mild cases may be treated with home remedies, while more persistent numbness may require prescribed medication.

“Why Is My Thumb Numb & What Is Its Treatment?” ePain Assist; https://www.epainassist.com/hands/why-is-my-thumb-numb-and-what-is-its-treatment, last accessed August 7, 2017.
“Numb Thumb,” enki Very Well; https://www.enkiverywell.com/numb-thumb.html, last accessed August 7, 2017.