Numbness in the fingers can occur with a number of injuries and some medical conditions. It makes it hard to do simple things like button a shirt or hold onto a pen. Getting an accurate diagnosis is important because the treatments vary greatly to treat the numbness.
Exploring Your Symptoms
The first thing your healthcare provider will do is discuss your symptoms. It is important to know things like which fingers are affected, if something worsens the numbness and what helps to alleviate it. For example, if your numbness occurs when you wake up or grip a steering wheel, this can indicate carpal tunnel syndrome.
During the physical examination, your doctor will look at the muscle strength in your fingers and hand. He will put pressure on the ulnar and median nerves to see if this causes any numbness. This helps the doctor to determine which of the major nerves might be the source of your numbness.
There are three primary tests that healthcare providers order when trying to diagnose the source of numbness in the fingers. These tests typically include:
- General X-ray: Regular X-rays are used to look at the bones in your fingers, wrist and hand. If there are bone issues present, such as a fracture or arthritis, these might contribute to numbness in the fingers.
- Nerve conduction study: This involves putting electrodes on your skin and sending gentle electric shocks to the ulnar and median nerve. This helps healthcare providers to assess electrical impulses in the area to see if they are getting through normally. This can show conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or problems with the ulnar nerve, both of which can cause numbness in the fingers.
- Electromyogram: This is similar to nerve conduction studies and it looks at the electrical discharges that your muscles produce. This involves putting very thin needles into the muscles and then sending a gentle electrical shock to them. The purpose is to look for issues like muscle damage that might cause numbness in the fingers.
- Blood testing: Your doctor might order some blood tests to determine if there are any underlying conditions that have finger numbness as a symptom.
After conducting a number of tests, your doctor will discuss the various treatment options available to you. You might need further testing as you go throughout treatment to determine its efficacy.