Thumb Numbness

Common Causes of Thumb Numbness

Thumb numbness is bound to afflict most of us at some point in our lives. The initial tingling or numbness can be quite worrisome, however in most cases this does not necessarily indicate the presence of a serious condition. There are quite a few different conditions that can result in a numb thumb, and therefore the treatment methods involved in reinstating feeling in the thumb varies quite a bit.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Pain or numbness that affects the thumb (and sometimes the forefinger of the same hand) is a tell-tale sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a condition caused by compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel, a naturally-occurring section at the base of the wrist. The carpal tunnel derives its name from its physical shape, as the bones in this section create an arch-like tunnel. A series of tendons and nerves run through this tunnel, of which the median nerve is included.

Although all cases of carpal tunnel syndrome consist of some degree of constriction of the median nerve, it is not always clear why some individuals develop this syndrome. It can be cause by prolonged use of items such as a computer mouse or keyboard or through excessive use of vibrating equipment. Individuals whose wrist is exposed to repetitive movement, impact, or improper posture are at particular risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms for this condition include, but are not limited to, finger or thumb numbness, tingling, or burning, pain in the hand or wrist, and difficulty controlling one’s grip. In severe cases the pain may extend all the way up the arm and to the shoulder. The hand may also swell and worsen at night time.


Those who bowl a lot are also likely to experience thumb numbness more often than the average person. This is likely due to the fact that some bowling balls have sharper edges around the thumb hole. The lack of padding and smoothness of the hole’s edges can dig sharply into the thumb, thus resulting in temporary constriction of underlying nerves as well as damage to the tissues within the general area.


The massive popularity of cell phones has led to an increase in the occurrence of thumb numbness, typically due to texting. The repetitive tapping and scrunched posture that the thumbs are subjected to while texting can lead to a condition called repetitive strain injury. Any joint in the body can suffer from repetitive strain injury, which is an injury that develops over time through excessive or recurring stress to the joint. The pressure exerted onto certain points on the tips of the thumbs can indeed temporarily damage local nerves and cause numbness of the thumb which may or may not extend to the palm or other areas of the hand.

Computer Usage

A large percentage of recent cases of thumb numbness consist of frequent computer users. When typing on a pc keyboard or laptop, many of us fail to exercise the proper position of our hands, wrist, and arms. Many people have a tendency to relax the arms and tilt the wrist upwards while typing. This posture is one of the leading causes of wrist injury (of which thumb numbness is a key symptom). Rather than pulling the pc keyboard or laptop towards the edge of the desk, it should be pushed farther onto a flat surface so that the arms and wrist have more support. The wrist should be kept level with the hands and not tilted at an angle.

The use of a computer mouse is also another common cause of numbness of the thumb. Unfortunately, there is very little one can do to exercise good wrist posture when using a standard computer mouse. There are designs of mouse available which lessen the amount of pressure exerted onto the wrist. A specialty mouse may be the perfect solution for someone who experiences thumb numbness on a regular basis due to computer mouse use.