Without your fingers or hands, your ability to work would be greatly reduced.
Human hands are unique. No other creature in the world has hands that can manipulate, grasp, hold and move objects like human hands. They are one of your greatest assets. Unfortunately, some people suffer from various types of hand weakness. This limits the amount of activity they can do daily.
Sudden hand weakness is concerning and may require immediate medical attention but if you have had a nagging, persistent hand weakness the most common causes are usually not serious or life-threatening.
Hand weakness that lasts for weeks or months is typically caused by a treatable medical problem. Most of the time, hand weakness can get worse if it is not addressed. Therefore, you should not postpone getting medical attention if you occasionally have trouble moving your hand or if your hand has been gradually getting weaker.
Here are some causes of hand weakness:
Arthritis causes pain and swelling of the joints. This can result in a sensation of weakness and trouble with movement, particularly in the hands. If you have arthritis, you might have ignored the milder, early symptoms. But arthritis can worsen over time, and for many people with arthritis, it is difficult to continue to ignore it, especially when it starts to cause weakness.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor can diagnose arthritis based on your account of hand weakness, your physical examination, and possibly blood tests and X-rays. Arthritis is a painful condition that is treatable with anti-inflammatory medications and therapy, and it is not life-threatening.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common causes of hand weakness, hand discomfort and hand pain. It is caused by overuse of the hand, arm or wrist, which is often related to repetitive movements such as operating machinery, computer use or typing.
Carpal tunnel syndrome results from swelling on the inside of the wrist. The swelling compresses the nerves that travel through a ‘tunnel’ of wrist bones. This results in pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, and lack of coordination of the hand. The discomfort and weakness can travel up the arm if the swelling and pressure worsens.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Your doctor, nurse practitioner or physical therapist can typically diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome by listening to your explanation of your symptoms and examining your hand and arm. Sometimes a scan is needed to confirm the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a treatable problem. Rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications usually help. A wrist brace and adjustment of the wrist motion during work can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from getting worse. And for the most severe cases, a fairly simple surgical procedure to relieve the pressure usually takes care of the problem permanently.
Diabetes is a treatable medical illness. One of the complications of diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy is an injury of one or more nerves of the body, most often affecting the hands or feet. Neuropathy can cause weakness, a sense of heaviness, trouble coordinating the movements of the affected limb, pain, tingling or a burning sensation.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Your doctor can detect diabetic neuropathy based on your description of your complaints and a physical examination. Often, a nerve conduction study is needed to define the severity and the type of neuropathy. Blood tests can identify whether you have diabetes.
Next steps include diabetes management, which can help your symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, especially if they have not been present for too long.
Always seek medical advice if you’re unsure of your symptoms.