What Are the Causes of Numbness in the Hands & Arms?

Numbness in the hands and arms is usually caused by some type of peripheral neuropathy, which is a problem with the peripheral nerves that affects the way sensory information is carried from the central nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by damage to the nerve or excess pressure exerted on the nerve. Numbness in the hands and arms can also indicate serious blood circulation problems that require immediate medical attention.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is characterized by the degeneration of the spinal vertebrae as well as the formation of abnormal growths of bone called bone spurs. Cervical spondylosis is a normal result of increasing age, but younger adults may be affected by cervical spondylosis because of other health problems. As the vertebrae in the spinal column degenerate, they begin to compress the nerves. This can result in neck pain and stiffness, arm pain, tingling and numbness in the arms, legs, hands or feet, difficulty walking, abnormal reflexes and loss of bladder and bowel control, according to MayoClinic.com.

Treatment for cervical spondylosis is aimed at pain relief and avoiding permanent spinal or nerve damage. Treatment options include pain relievers, physical therapy and the use of a neck brace. If the condition worsens or the pain is severe, surgery may be needed to repair the vertebrae.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the gradual narrowing of the spinal column. When the spinal column becomes narrowed, the result is excess pressure on the spinal cord and the openings in the spinal cord from which the nerves exit the spinal column, according to Medline Plus. Symptoms of spinal stenosis usually occur gradually and include numbness or cramping in various areas of the body, including the arms and hands; weakness in the arms or legs; and difficulty walking.

Spinal stenosis usually develops as a result of increasing age but can occur because of other conditions, such as arthritis, a herniated disk, spinal cord injury, congenital defects and bone diseases. Most cases of spinal stenosis are treated with a combination of physical therapy, pain medications and lifestyle changes. Moderate to severe cases may benefit from injections of anti-inflammatory medications. Medline Plus notes that surgery may be needed if other treatment options are ineffective.


A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, covering the area of the brain with blood. In both instances, the brain cells cannot properly receive oxygen, which results in brain cell death. Symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, especially the arms, hands and face; confusion; difficulty speaking and understanding others; vision problems; difficulty walking; dizziness; and severe headache.

If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Those who survive a stroke usually have permanent damage to the brain that produces long-lasting symptoms such as paralysis on one side of the body or long-term numbness. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that approximately 25 percent of stroke survivors who recover will experience another within five years.