Tingling or numbness in your fingers, hands or arms, medically referred to as paresthesia, usually indicates an insufficient supply of oxygen. The feeling can be triggered by holding a position for too long or applying too much pressure applied to the area, thereby impeding circulation.
If this is the case, certain stretches and exercises for pins and needles in the hands can often help restore normal strength and function.
Video of the Day
However, in some cases, tingling in the fingers and hands can indicate a serious underlying medical condition, such as a pinched nerve in your neck or farther down your arm, stroke, spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis. It can also be caused by diabetes or alcohol abuse, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In these situations, exercises for numb fingers will not fix the problem. And severely compressed nerves may require surgical intervention.
Seek immediate medical attention if your tingling is accompanied by weakness, confusion, dizziness or a sudden severe headache, per the Mayo Clinic. This can be a sign of a life-threatening condition.
Exercises for Numb Fingers
To help relieve your symptoms, try exercises for numbness in the hands like nerve glides. Median nerve glides are performed for carpal tunnel syndrome while ulnar nerve glides are used to treat cubital tunnel syndrome, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Stretching your arms, shoulders and torso can also improve blood circulation to your extremities and throughout your body. And rotational exercises can also boost blood flow and oxygen to your left arm.
1. Scapular Retraction
- Sit up straight on a firm surface. Look straight ahead.
- Keeping your arms relaxed, squeeze your shoulder blades down and together — as if you are trying to put them into your back pockets.
- Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 10 times, working up to a 30-second hold.
2. Chin Retraction
- Sit up tall and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- While looking straight ahead, pull your chin backward, as if you are making a "double chin." You should feel a stretch in the muscles along the back of your neck.
- Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 10 times, gradually increasing the length of the hold.
3. Median Nerve Glides
- Begin with your hand in a fist, keeping your thumb outside your fingers.
- With your thumb next to your hand, straighten your fingers.
- Tip your wrist backward.
- Stick your thumb out to the side as if you are hitchhiking.
- Using your opposite hand, apply gentle pressure to your thumb to increase the amount of stretch.
4. Ulnar Nerve Glides
- Straighten your arm out in front of you.
- Curl your fingers and wrist in toward your forearm.
- Straighten your fingers and tip your wrist backward.
- Bend your elbow.
5. Arm Stretch Sequence
- Stand with your feet flat on the ground and aligned with your shoulders.
- Reach up slowly as high as you can, then gradually bring your arms back down.
- Continue for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Next, alternate reaching out to the right as far as you can, then the left.
- Repeat several times on each arm.
6. Arm Circles
- Rotate your left arm by stretching it out from your side and making circular movements with your hand for 15 repetitions. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows while doing this exercise.
- Repeat the exercise in reverse.
- Then, flex your biceps, triceps and shoulder muscles for 3 sets of 15 repetitions and feel the blood pumping into the muscles.
Causes of Tingling Hands
Tingling in your hands or fingers can be caused by cervical radiculopathy — a pinched nerve in your neck, according to the AAOS.
In addition to tingling, you might also notice pain that occurs with a particular neck position, or pain that shoots down your arm. If the nerve has been compressed for a longer period of time, you might also notice weakness in your arm muscles.
These symptoms can also be caused by a pinched nerve in your elbow or wrist — conditions that include cubital tunnel syndrome, or more commonly, carpal tunnel syndrome, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These conditions cause symptoms in specific parts of the hands and fingers, correlating with the affected nerves.
Note that these conditions typically only affect one side of the body at a time. If you have symptoms in both arms, seek medical attention. This is commonly a sign of an underlying medical condition rather than a pinched nerve, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Other Ways to Treat the Feeling of Pins and Needles
Acupressure can improve blood circulation in your left arm. This treatment, which involves applying pressure at specific points on the body to relieve pain, helps alleviate any blockage in the blood vessels or arteries leading to the area.
According to Ben Kim, DC, holistic healing specialist, applying pressure to the pericardium-3, or PC-3, pressure point is an excellent way to boost blood circulation to your left arm.
To find the PC-3, bend your left arm slightly and feel for the tendon of your biceps muscle popping up. Just to the inside of the biceps tendon and about the width of one finger above your elbow crease is your brachial artery. This point is the PC-3.
Improve your posture, whether standing, sitting or lifting, to ensure that blood is distributed properly to your left arm. A slouched position slows the movement of blood to your extremities. Instead, keep your spine properly aligned and your shoulders back.
Your arms should hang comfortably at your sides and you should keep your chin up while walking. Also, look straight ahead rather than looking down toward your toes all the time.
When lifting items, keep your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. Your back muscles are not your strongest muscles, so let your leg and thigh muscles do the work.
Create a base of support by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot about half a step in front of the other. By assigning the weight of the load to the correct muscles and maintaining proper posture, you can avoid compromised circulation and stress to your arms and back.
When to Seek Medical Help
If the pins and needles sensation is accompanied by chest and jaw pain, you should head to the emergency room right away, as these symptoms may signal an impending heart attack or stroke.
In some cases, the feeling of pins and needles in your left arm can be caused by an underlying problem like trauma or injury, diabetes, brachial neuralgia, a heart condition, multiple sclerosis or nerve damage.
In these cases, treatment might require more drastic measures like chemotherapy, surgery or medication. Be watchful of serious symptoms like tingling sensations that last for weeks or months or increasing pain and discomfort in the area.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Numbness in Hands: Causes"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Why Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Is No Laughing Matter"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome"
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Ulnar Nerve Entrapment at the Elbow (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome)"
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Paresthesia"
- Better Health Channel: "Pins and Needles"