One of the complaints that patients present to me is an uncomfortable tingling sensation, usually in their hands or feet.
The typical complaint is that their hands or feet have a disturbing sensation that they describe as “feeling like my funny bone has been hit.” Occasionally they will describe it as “numbness”.
Tingling that occurs in the hands or feet is often the result of a sensory nerve being pinched, damaged or otherwise irritated. The nerves that go to your hands start in your neck, branching off the spinal cord then run across to your shoulders, down through the elbows then the wrists and into the fingers. If you have pain or tingling in your fingers the problem could be anywhere between your neck and your fingers.
The problem is often a pinched nerve in the neck. The nerves branch off the spinal cord then pass between two vertebrae (spinal bones). The delicate nerves can be irritated or pinched by a bulging or swollen disk, arthritis, misaligned vertebrae, or other problems. In most cases the problem can be helped without surgery.
The nerve can also be irritated by pressure along the path down the shoulder through the elbow and wrist. This usually happens as a result of long-standing tendonitis or muscle injuries that cause soft tissue swelling. Again, these problems can usually be helped with conservative treatment. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example of the nerve being pinched as it passes through the space around the wrist bones.
Tingling in the feet can be caused by the same kinds of problems or may be a sign of peripheral neuropathy, which is a term that indicates certain nerves are not healthy. This can be caused by diseases such as diabetes. Although this type of problem can be a chronic degenerating condition, it is often possible that the discomfort can be helped.
It is also possible for a temporary interruption in blood flow to cause a tingling sensation. Sometimes patients refer to this as feeling like their hands or feet have “fallen asleep.” This could be as simple as recognizing a position that puts pressure on an artery and avoiding that position. However, it could also be a sign of vascular problems. If this happens frequently it should be evaluated. It is important to note that any unusual tingling sensation should be examined to determine the cause.
Some people will be bothered by a slightly irritating sensation that is not exactly painful but is significant enough to interrupt their sleep. Some patients refer to this as “restlessness.” Even this mild degree of discomfort can seriously affect overall health and should be evaluated.
It should be noted that if a person experiences sudden severe tingling sensations or if the tingling affects more than one area or is accompanied by other unusual symptoms such as difficulty smiling, speaking, or with movement, it is very important to seek emergency care immediately. These could be warning signs of a serious condition.
If a person has tingling sensations affecting the hands or feet they may want to see if conservative chiropractic or acupuncture care could be helpful. In our office evaluating patients with tingling sensations is a weekly occurrence.
In many cases we find that the cause is treatable by conservative measures. Patients are glad to know that surgery or long-term drug treatment will not be required.