I have been seeing a patient who whenever her head is in a specific position the numbness in her fingers temporarily disappears. If like her you have a sore neck and some tingling or numbness in your hand or fingers then the following information might help you. You’ll discover how the two problems are connected and more importantly the best way to get them both resolved
How is numbness in fingers related to Neck Pain
As a Chiropractor in Madrid I get to see a lot of people with pain in one place and related symptoms in another. You have probably heard of Sciatica where people have pain running down the back of their leg which in some cases is caused by a herniated disc. The same kind of problem can also occur in the neck.
The discs between the bones in the neck act as shock absorbers and work to keep the bones apart and allow space for the nerves to leave your spinal cord and travel down to your shoulders and arms. If the disc in your neck bulge out and put pressure on the nerves you would expect some kind of irritation of that nerve.
If these nerves are irritated then your brain will receive a message as if those nerves had been activated. If the nerve is a nerve associated with pain you brain will interpret it as pain. If it is one of the many nerves that are related to sensation or your sense of touch, your brain will act as if it is being stimulated and you will feel tingling.
If on the other hand the nerve is cut (e.g. paralysis), compressed (stinger injuries in sports) or unable to function then the nerves that go to your hands for sensation (your hands are one of the parts of your body with the most nerves associated with sensation) will no longer function as they should and instead of feeling something they will become numb.
On the picture you can see that when the nerves leave the neck they go to certain places on your arms. You can see that problems with say the sixth vertebra will be associates with the thumb, the seventh with the next fingers and the space between the last bone in the neck and the first bone in the chest generally will cause numbness in the little finger and ring finger.
How do you fix pinched nerves in the neck
To fix neck pain you have to know what is causing the neck pain. The following are some of the causes of neck pain that are associated with finger numbness
- Spinal Misalignment
- Herniated Disc
- Reduction of the size of the gap in the spine where the nerve leaves (Spinal Stenosis)
- Muscle Strain/Sprain
- Muscle Trigger Points
- Upper Crossed Postural Syndrome
- Facet Syndrome
- General postural associated problems
- Overstretched ligaments/Muscles
- Extra rib (cervical rib)
- Tumour e.g. Thyroid or Lung
- Infections e.g. Meningitis
Treatment for the above conditions ranges from simple advice with some exercises through to urgent referral to a Hospital Surgeon. It is important to get a healthcare professional to examine you and diagnose what is causing your problem. Most of the above problems become harder and require longer to correct the longer they are left untreated.
Five of the most common neck pain with finger numbness causes I see and treat are
Spinal Misalignment – This responds really well to Chiropractic Manipulation of the neck. I prefer low force adjustments using an Activator tool to correct joints in the neck that aren’t working as they should. The Activator tool makes the adjustments pain free and is much safer than many other alternatives.
Muscle/Ligament Adhesions – Muscles and Ligaments can develop scar tissues or adhesions when they are torn but also when they are used for long periods of time without rest. Once you have an adhesion then the muscle will not be able to relax and things like massage or heat/cold will provide little more than temporary relief. In my experience the best treatment is Active Release Technique to permanently remove the adhesions. This post on neck muscles explains it in more detail.
Herniated Disc – If you have a herniated disc then I have found a few approaches particularly successful in resolving them. In my experience(and various studies) there are small joints between the bones in your neck called facet joints that become fixed and put pressure on the disc. When these joints open and close normally as you move your neck there is less pressure on your disc and the disc can recover. I also use the McKenzie method which has a lot of scientific studies showing success in treating herniated discs in the neck.
Upper Crossed Postural Syndrome – Every year I see more and more patients with this problem. It is a problem of people with rounded shoulders and a head that is sticking forward. It is especially common in people who use computers for long hours. To correct this is difficult and involves stretches, exercises, mobilizations of vertebra’s, adjustments and work on changing muscle activation.
Facet Syndrome – The Facet Joint is a little joint between each of the Vertebra’s in your spine. When these don’t work as they should it can irritate the nerves that pass beside them and it can change the way the whole vertebra’s move. There is a video of a neck treatment of a facet problem showing a before during and after treatment using a tool called an Arthrostim. I have found that this is a effective tool for resolving this particular problem.