What Are the Most Common Causes of a Numb Finger?

Typing on a keyboard can be hard on the wrists, possibly aggravating carpal tunnel problems and causing numb fingers.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2014
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There are a wide range of things which may cause a numb finger or fingers. Pinched nerves, multiple sclerosis, frostbite, anxiety, carpal tunnel syndrome, low potassium levels, and use of vibrating power tools can all result in numbness. Additional neurological disorders can also cause numbness in the fingers, but these generally result in more widespread symptoms over time and numbness may not be the primary symptom.

Most cases of numb finger symptoms are benign and treatable. This will depend on the severity of the condition, and some causes may be serious unless treated right away. Frost bite, for instance, can eventually kill the tissues of the fingers and lead to permanent damage or amputation. Others, like pinched nerves, often heal on their own if given enough time.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common causes of a numb finger. It is a condition caused by long-term repetitive motion, especially when the wrists or hands are incorrectly aligned. Those who work with a computer are most susceptible to carpal tunnel. Most times one or more fingers will become numb, and then the hand and wrist will become painful and sometimes swollen. Treatment can involve wearing a specialized brace and occasionally surgery.


Some potential causes of a numb finger are chronic and generally last throughout one’s life. Illnesses like multiple sclerosis (MS) eventually become worse over time and can cause debilitating symptoms. MS may begin as numbness or tingling in the fingers, hands, legs, or feet. Symptoms may then spread outward away from the extremities. Medications are necessary in order to control symptoms, and a remission of discomfort and numbness is common.

Most of the time numbness in one or more fingers is not cause for alarm. Many individuals experience it as a one-time occurrence. Any numbness which sticks around for more than a day or two should be checked out by a doctor to rule out any serious health conditions. This is especially true if numbness is accompanied by muscle weakness, pain, tingling, or uncontrollable shaking or tremor.

Although rare, there are serious and life-threatening neurological disorders which can begin as a numb finger. These often deteriorate rapidly and can lead to permanent disabilities and even death. Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, is one example. Weakness, twitching, loss of balance, and other symptoms are generally present.


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