Hand weakness can stem from a variety of conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, and ganglion cysts.

A weakened hand or grip can make everyday tasks much more difficult.

This article discusses some causes of hand weakness, accompanying symptoms, and treatment options.

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Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled sacs that typically form on or near a joint or tendon.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), ganglion cysts are the most frequently forming lump in the hand. They often appear on the back of the wrist.

Although harmless, ganglion cysts can sometimes put pressure on the nerves. This can cause muscle weakness, tingling, and pain.

These lumps are usually only a cosmetic issue. Rarely do they cause sensory changes or weakness.

Learn more about ganglion cysts.


Ganglion cysts do not typically require treatment. However, if the cyst is causing pain, these treatments may help:

  • Immobilization: Activity can cause the cyst to increase in size, putting more pressure on the nerves. A wrist brace may help relieve symptoms.
  • Aspiration: This procedure involves a healthcare professional removing the fluid from the cyst. It is an option if the cyst is causing severe pain or limits activity.
  • Excision: A surgeon may remove the cyst if nonsurgical methods are ineffective.

A person may also take over-the-counter pain medication if the cyst is causing discomfort.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the carpal tunnel, a passageway in the wrist, or the tissues surrounding the flexor tendons swell. This, in turn, puts pressure on the median nerve.

This pressure can result in pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand.

According to the AAOS, carpal tunnel syndrome may occur due to different factors, such as repetitive hand use, pregnancy, and some health conditions.

Alongside hand weakness, other symptoms include:

  • numbness, tingling, pain, and burning in the fingers
  • shock-like sensations radiating to the fingers
  • pain and tingling that travel to the forearm

A person may drop things due to hand weakness and numbness. This is a late stage effect of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Usually, the tingling and pain are present for a long time and may become severe before weakness develops.


Treatment options for carpal tunnel may include:

  • pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications
  • splints
  • changes in activity
  • steroid injections
  • exercises
  • surgery

Read about natural and home remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve, which passes through the inside of the elbow, becomes irritated, inflamed, swollen, or compressed.

Although cubital tunnel syndrome may cause pain in the elbow, most symptoms occur in the hand.

Symptoms may include:

  • pain in the hand
  • numbness in the hand or ring finger that worsens when the elbow bends
  • weakened hand grip
  • difficulty coordinating the fingers
  • pain inside the elbow


According to the AAOS, treatment options include:

  • anti-inflammatory medication
  • splints or braces
  • nerve gliding exercises
  • surgery

Learn more about cubital tunnel syndrome.

Epicondylitis occurs due to damage to the tendons in the forearm. There are two types of epicondylitis: medial and lateral.

Medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow, develops from damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.

Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, develops from damage to the tendons that bend the wrist away from the palm.

Some causes include playing tennis, carrying heavy objects, and frequently using hand tools.

Symptoms of epicondylitis include:

  • pain on the inner part of the forearm that runs from the elbow to the wrist
  • weakness in the wrist and hand
  • weakened hand grip
  • pain when squeezing a ball or moving the hand toward the pinkie finger


Treatment involves stopping the activity that caused the condition and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition.

Treatment options include:

A pinched nerve, or cervical radiculopathy, occurs when something presses against and irritates a nerve in the neck.

This may stem from changes in the spine as a person ages. It can also occur due to sudden injury that results in a herniated disk.

The pain typically originates in the neck and travels down the arm.

Other symptoms include:

  • tingling in the hand and fingers
  • hand, muscle, or shoulder weakness
  • diminished sensation


Treatment for a pinched nerve includes:

Learn more about treatment for a pinched nerve.

According to the AAOS, there are more than 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common.

Common symptoms of arthritis may include:

  • pain
  • warmth around the affected joint
  • grating or grinding sensations in the joint
  • swelling
  • cysts
  • decreased range of motion around the affected joint


A person should contact a doctor about treatment options. A doctor can determine the best treatment based on a person’s circumstances.

Treatment options may include:

  • medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs
  • splints
  • injections
  • surgery to repair damage or replace joints

Learn more about arthritis in the hands.

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass. It causes weakness and loss of muscle functions, including strength in the hands. It can naturally occur as a person ages.

Other symptoms can include:

  • poor balance
  • difficulty climbing stairs
  • loss of endurance
  • a decrease in muscle size

Learn more about sarcopenia.


Treatment options focus on preventing and managing the condition through physical activity, such as resistance training. This can help improve strength and reduce muscle loss.

A person can also increase their protein intake. Experts suggest consuming 20–35 grams of protein per meal.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), peripheral neuropathy can develop due to conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nerves.

There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected.

Neuropathy that can affect the hands includes:

  • Motor nerve damage: This can cause muscle weakness, painful cramps, muscle twitching, and muscle shrinking.
  • Sensory nerve damage: A loss of sensation in the hands or other parts of the body can make it difficult to perform daily activities, such as fastening a button.

Learn more about peripheral neuropathy.


If a doctor determines a person has peripheral neuropathy, they will recommend the person continue to treat the underlying condition. A person needs to follow all of their doctor’s recommendations and let them know if the treatment is not working.

To treat peripheral neuropathy directly, a doctor may recommend braces, splints, and pain relief medication.

Learn how to treat peripheral neuropathy naturally.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the central nervous system.

Scientists do not exactly know what causes MS. They believe it is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the myelin, which insulates the nerves.

According to the NINDS, most people with MS experience muscle weakness in their extremities. They may also experience numbness and a prickling sensation.


There is currently no cure for MS, but treatments can manage symptoms Treatment typically involves medications and physical therapy.

Learn more about treatment for MS.

A stroke occurs due to a decrease or blockage in the brain’s blood supply or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

Strokes can cause numbness or weakness in the arm, face, or leg, particularly on one side of the body.

Other symptoms of a stroke include:

  • confusion
  • difficulty seeing
  • difficulty walking
  • sudden and severe headache


The treatment for a stroke depends on the type of stroke.

Learn more about the treatment options for a stroke.

A person should seek emergency medical attention if they notice any stroke symptoms.

A person should consult a doctor if they have sudden weakness in one or both hands.

It is also recommended to contact a doctor if a treatment is not working. A doctor may help determine a better course of treatment.

To make a diagnosis, a doctor needs to perform a physical examination. They will also ask about all symptoms.

During the examination, the doctor may test a person’s hand strength and pain level.

If needed, the doctor may order additional imaging tests to look at the joints. This may include an X-ray or MRI scan. A doctor can use imaging tests to diagnose conditions such as arthritis and assess the amount of damage to the joints.

Hand weakness can result from several conditions, including a ganglion cyst, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome.

It can also be part of many different health conditions that cause neuropathy.

A person will likely experience other symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or limited mobility of the hand or fingers.

A person should contact a doctor about all their symptoms. A doctor can diagnose the issue and recommend treatments based on the underlying condition causing the weakness.