Waking With Numb Hands (Or Pins & Needles) - What Does It Mean?

Do you ever wake up with numb hands or with pins and needles?

I heard some friends talking at the gym the other day about how they wake up with numb hands or pins and needles during the night. After they had discussed that it happened to both of them they shrugged it off and said “oh well what can you do?”…. I looked at them and said “you I can fix that for you right?”

It made me wonder how many people think it’s something they have to live with.

A common misconception I hear from clients suffering with these symptoms is that they think they have “bad” circulation. This is not the case. The nerves that serve our arms and hands originate from our cervical spine. This is the neck section of our spine. These nerves travel a rather convoluted pathway to reach the arms. They exit the spine and travel down into the top of the chest area. They travel across the top of the chest towards the armpit where they enter the arm itself. (A SUPER basic breakdown) but it gives you the picture right? So you can see there are many structures and muscles on the way down to the hand that can impinge on these nerves.

With forward head posture and rounded shoulders due to computer work, driving and even just looking down at kids (really common issue with early childhood teachers and new mums) over time shortens the muscles over the top of these nerves and can and do cause impingement. This is why you wake up with numbness, tingling and pins and needles in one or both hands.

The issue can also be in the arm itself. With lots of typing the muscles and tendons in the forearms can get really tight and impinge on the nerves as well.

So what can I do to help?

Releasing the muscles in the neck and chest is key. Yes we still need to work on the muscles of the upper back and arms. But I have found that without releasing and softening the muscles of the chest there will be limited improvement long term.

There are some really basic, easy to do stretches I prescribe that you can work into your bedtime routine. These are also great tools to use if numb hands wake you at night. Being a massage therapist this is one of my biggest issues. When my own self care is lacking I wake with “restless” arms. The only thing that settles them is doing these stretches. And then promptly making an appointment with my massage therapist the next day!

Strengthening the muscles in the upper back is also greatly beneficial for long term relief. 

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