Numbness and tingling in the hands after intense exercise – what does it indicate?

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Numbness of the hands is an ailment that is relatively often complained about by people who perform intensive strength training. Where should one look for the cause of this condition and how can it be remedied? We answer.

Concept and causes of numbness

The term numbness refers to a sensory disorder involving the fact that a nerve is compressed or a particular part of the hand is uninvolved. Consequently, there is a paresthesia effect – it is usually felt in the form of tingling, lack of sensation or marked weakness of a particular part of the hand. Other discomforts associated with numbness can also include pain and even an unpleasant burning sensation. 

The most common causes of numbness are neurological or orthopedic problems. If, on the other hand, we are talking about regular numbness in the upper extremities, the reasons can be sought especially in the cervical region of the spine – this is where the innervation of our hands comes out. The syndromes that most often and to the greatest extent affect our sensations are carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder sciatica.

Hand numbness after physical exertion

Intense physical exertion can be associated with a variety of side effects, and one of them is the numbness just discussed. This is also confirmed in practice – a large proportion of people who regularly perform strength exercises struggle with uncomfortable tingling in their hands, even if they are not working with heavy weights on a daily basis. Can training itself actually be a direct cause of numbness?

Before we start looking for reasons for numbness, we should ask ourselves a fundamental question, namely: in what part of the upper limb exactly do we observe tingling? It is worth noting, first of all, that in physiotherapeutic terminology the term “hand” refers only to the hand. In turn, each nerve is responsible for a different part of our hand. There are the following: the medial cutaneous nerve of the arm, the musculocutaneous nerve, the radial nerve, the median nerve and the ulnar nerve. Based on where specifically in the hand we feel numbness, we can tell which nerve is the problem and where to look for a solution.

How to deal with numbness?

The easiest way to deal with numbness may be to take a break from exercise for a few days – perhaps the tingling is nothing serious and is the result of simple overtraining. A few days of rest certainly won’t have a negative impact on your training results, and can be truly salutary in terms of combating numbness. There is a reason why many exercisers recommend just such a solution at the beginning. However, if, even after a break, the numbness persists, it is worth visiting your primary care physician, who will refer you for further examination. In more serious cases, a detailed diagnosis with magnetic resonance imaging may be necessary.

Exercises for hand numbness

The fight against hand numbness can also be tried with simple exercises. This is mainly about undemanding activities that can be quietly done at home, such as pressing your hands on the countertop (stretching the muscles that flex the wrists) or hooking the door (stretching the muscles of the front of the chest). Even if the above exercises don’t solve our problems 100 percent, they are certainly worth trying!

main photo: Korhonen

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