Numbness and Tingling in Hands: What's Causing It & How PT Can Help

Written By: Negin Jalayer, PT, OCS at Marathon Physical Therapy


Are you experiencing numbness and tingling in your hand? And no matter how much you wiggle your fingers, the sensation remains?

Typically, pins and needles in hands are associated with pressure on the nerves or blood vessels that lead into the hands. But why are these nerves or blood vessels becoming compressed? What’s going on below the surface?

Let’s explore the reasons behind tingling and numbness in hands. We’ll also discuss treatment options and how to alleviate these symptoms.

Causes of Numbness and Tingling in the Hands

There are a variety of common reasons why you may experience tingling in your hands and feet. These include swelling accumulation, abnormal posture, and tissue protrusion such as a herniated disc. Tingling in the hands is usually not a reason to run to the emergency room – unless it’s associated with other red flag symptoms.

In these common instances, fluid or other structures compress the nerve. This irritates the nerve, which is why you feel numbness or tingling in your hands.

But there’s one other common cause that is frequently misdiagnosed. 

The Unexpected Culprit: Your First Rib

Your first rib connects your T1 vertebrae in the back to the top of your breast bone in the front. And above these structures are the major blood vessels. These are the subclavian artery and vein, as well as a bundle of nerves that run from your neck into your arm. 

If your 1st rib sits in an abnormal position, it can easily place pressure on the nerves in this area. Ultimately, this may cause an array of issues in your neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. This is frequently referred to as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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And you guessed it: Tt can cause numbness and tingling in your fingers, hands, and arms. It may further cause shoulder pain, making it difficult to reach up and behind your back. Your fingers and hands may also swell.

These symptoms might sound scary. But, with efficient and effective physical therapy treatment, you can achieve almost instant pain relief. 

Treatment for Tingling in Hands and Feet From An Abnormal 1st Rib Position

Many physical therapists use 1st rib mobilization techniques to treat symptoms like numbness in hands and feet. But first, your physical therapist will perform a proper assessment involving looking and feeling for an abnormal position of your 1st rib. Once they determine that one of your 1st ribs is abnormally positioned, they will push on it to mobilize it into a normal position. 

Surprisingly, this treatment technique takes only a matter of seconds. You often will instantly feel relief from tingling in fingers and hands, swelling, or painful arm movements. 

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However, your physical therapy treatment and assessment will also involve a variety of other techniques. These techniques and treatments ensure that you don’t experience a flare-up in the future. They also address other abnormalities or imbalances contributing to tingling or numbness in your hands. Such techniques and treatment methods may involve:

  • Full posture and strength assessment
  • Education on proper breathing (called diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Evaluation of bad posture habits (like sitting slouched at your desk job, carrying handbags on one shoulder all the time, etc)
  • Correction of bad posture habits
  • Strengthening of important posture supporting muscles
  • Stretching of tight chest muscles
  • Hand therapy

Find Out What’s Causing Your Hand Numbness and Tingling Today!

Either way, you’ll want to get pins and needles in your hands checked out by a registered physical therapist. That way, you can get back to the activities you know and love faster. 

Use the BetterPT website or app to find a therapist near you. You simply search what type of physical therapist you require and book an appointment with the appropriate clinic. And thanks to direct access, booking your physical therapy appointment just got a whole lot easier. With no doctor’s referral needed, you can treat the tingling and numbness in your hands faster and easier than ever. 

Dr. Negin Jalayer is a New York State licensed physical therapist at Marathon Physical Therapy with over 13 years of experience in orthopedic physical therapy. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University in 2004 with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. In 2007, she completed her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Northeastern University.

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