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Nerve Damage in the Hand

Bidisha Mukherjee Apr 16, 2019
Nerve damage in the hand can affect its proper functioning. Here's more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options that are available.
Nerves in the body carry out the vital function of transmission of messages between the brain and various parts of the body. In all, there are three different types of nerves in the body. They are autonomic nerves, motor nerves, and sensory nerves.
Among them, the motor nerve and sensory nerve control the activities of the hand. The motor nerve carries messages from the brain to the muscles of the hand regarding hand movements. The sensory nerve sends information from the hand to the brain about senses like pain, discomfort, temperature, pressure, etc.


The nerves are very delicate and can get damaged due to many different reasons. Traumatic injury is one of the most common cause of nerve damage in the hand. The hand nerves mostly get cut, stretched, pressed, or crushed because of injury.
It can happen after a bad fall, severe deep cut, overuse of hands, automobile accidents, burns, electrical shock, exposure to radiation or extreme cold temperature, etc.The nerve is susceptible to damage because of diabetes. High level of blood sugar causes extensive damage to the nerve fibers, particularly those which are present in the hands and feet.
This condition is also known as diabetic neuropathy. Other factors that can have a damaging effect are chronic illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, nutritional deficiency, side effects of medicines, excessive consumption of alcohol, etc.


The anatomy of the hand mainly consists of three vital nerves; namely, radial nerve, median nerve, and ulnar nerve. The median nerve is responsible for giving sensation to the thumb, index, middle, and part of the ring finger and the palms. Damage to this nerve causes loss of sensation in these areas, and one feels numbness and tingling there.
The radial nerve provides sensation to the thumb side of the hand, and controls the muscles that stretch the thumbs and fingers. Any kind of harm to this nerve will adversely affect movements of the thumb, fingers, and even the wrist. The ulnar nerve gives senses to the little finger and control movements of the fingers for gripping objects.
Damage leads to loss of movement and sensation. A twitching sensation can be felt in the muscles. Severely damaged nerves can weaken the muscles so much that it can even lead to paralysis of the hand.


As nerve damage can adversely affect the movements of the hand, one must take it seriously and visit a doctor for proper treatment as soon as any such symptoms are observed. The treatment is based on the severity of damage. For minor nerve damage, it is advised to rest the hand.
This will enable the nerve to heal up on its own and also prevent any further damage. Pain can be controlled with the help of anti-inflammatory medicines, narcotic pain relievers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, anti-seizures medicines, etc. If diabetes is the cause behind nerve damage, then the blood sugar level needs to be checked.
Medicines are changed to control side effects. A proper diet is recommended for those who have nutritional deficiency.
When the hand nerve has suffered severe damage, then a surgical option is availed for nerve repair. If the nerves are severed by cut injuries, then it requires immediate surgical repair. There are different methods of surgery. In most cases, surgeons try to put the endings of the damaged nerve together by surgery.
A large gap between nerve ends has to be bridged using nerve grafting, where a section of the nerve is taken from other body parts. Sometimes, conduit taken from muscles, nerves, veins or some synthetic material is also used to repair the gap. The surgery is followed by a rehabilitation program in order to restore strength and flexibility of the hand.
The recovery time for nerve damage in the hand is at least 12 weeks. It may take more time, and it depend on a number of factors like age of the patient, location of the nerve, severity of the injury, etc. During the healing period, the progress is closely monitored, and one should follow the instructions provided by the doctor.