Is one of your fingers numb and tingling with no explanation?
Are you wondering if a herniated disc (“pinched nerve”) in your neck can be causing this isolated symptom?
“Yes, it’s possible for a numb tingling finger to be the only symptom of a herniated disc,” says John D. Lipani, MD, FACS, neurosurgeon-in-chief for and founding director of Princeton Neurological Surgery in NJ.
“However, this presentation is relatively uncommon,” continues Dr. Lipani.
How is it possible that an irritated nerve in the neck, caused by a disc herniation, can then cause just the isolated symptom of a numb tingling finger?
After all, the nerve in the finger extends up the arm and to the neck.
“A pinched nerve root in the neck may travel down the arm to the tip of the fingers — and depending on which nerve fibers within the nerve root are affected, will determine the patient’s symptoms,” explains Dr. Lipani.
“Usually, pain extends distally [away from the center of the body] from the level where the nerve is pinched (i.e., in the neck).
“But again, sometimes the pain and/or numbness skips the arms and is only experienced in the finger or fingers.”
Likewise, a pinched nerve in the lower back can cause symptoms in a foot, while “skipping” past the length of the leg.
A sudden onset of tingling and numbness in a finger or two has many potential causes.
One common cause is trauma, which you might not even remember, such as lying on a finger while asleep.
Nerve irritation at the level of the elbow or wrist as well can cause a finger to tingle or feel numb.
Give the situation several days to resolve. If it doesn’t, see a doctor, as there are tests that can definitively determine the cause.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with a pinched nerve or herniated disc, this isn’t necessarily the cause of a new-onset, numb and tingling finger – but, it could be.
Dr. Lipani is a board certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeon. His specialties include minimally invasive spine surgery and non-invasive brain and spine radiosurgery. He’s the founding director of the JD Lipani Radiosurgery Institute™ for non-invasive neurosurgery.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.