Nerve damage in the hand: symptoms and treatment

Sometimes our arms and hands experience shooting pain or numbness. It becomes so painful that even clenching your fist or wringing out a wet towel seems like a difficult task. This may be due to nerve damage in the hand. Finding the underlying cause is very important. Accordingly, the doctor will suggest whether you need physiotherapy or any other treatment. But first, look for signs of nerve damage before moving on to treatment.

What is nerve damage?

We call this nerve injury, but doctors use the term peripheral neuropathy, which is a condition that occurs when nerves outside the brain and spinal cord are damaged or dysfunctional. Nerves play a very important role in transmitting signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body, says Dr Vikas Gupta, Director – Orthopedics and Head – Hand and Shoulder Surgery, Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, Delhi. When there is nerve damage, it can disrupt these signals and lead to various symptoms.

Nerve damage in the hands can cause a tingling sensation. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Nerve damage can have a variety of causes, including injury, trauma, infections, autoimmune diseases, metabolic disorders and genetic diseases. Diabetes is a common cause of nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy.

In the hands, the two most common causes of external injuries are external pressure on the nerve medically called compressive neuropathy and physical injury from a sharp object.

Signs of nerve damage in the hand

When it comes to the hand, here are some signs of nerve damage, which can be temporary or permanent.

1. Loss of sensation or numbness

A common sign of nerve damage is loss of sensation or a feeling of numbness in the affected area. A specific location may be affected or even extend over a larger region.

2. Tingling

Nerve damage to the hand may feel like a tingling or “tingling” sensation in the affected area. This feeling may come and go.

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3. Muscle weakness or paralysis

Nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness or even complete paralysis, Dr. Gupta tells Health Shots. This can make it difficult to move or control the muscles in the affected area.

4. Changes in reflexes

Nerve damage can affect reflexes, making them exaggerated, diminished, or absent altogether. When a doctor tests reflexes, he or she will tap or strike certain areas of the body and observe the response.

Hand shake
Nerve damage can affect reflexes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

5. Burning sensation

Some nerve injuries can cause shooting pain, burning, or a sharp, electrical sensation in the affected area. This pain may be intermittent or continuous and can range from mild to severe.

Treatment of nerve damage in the hand

Physical therapy is often suggested to help in cases of nerve damage. Indeed, it provides pain management techniques, improves range of motion, strengthens muscles, improves balance and coordination. Physical therapists use a variety of exercises and techniques to promote nerve regeneration, relieve pain, restore function and improve overall quality of life. They play a very important role in the rehabilitation process, helping people regain mobility and much more.

But there are also other treatments that depend on the underlying cause and the extent of the damage. This may include medications to manage pain and other symptoms, lifestyle changes, and treatment of the underlying condition. In old neglected cases, nerve damage may be irreversible. In such cases, the goal of treatment is to prevent further progression and manage symptoms so that quality of life is not affected.

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