Numbness in the pinky finger can have several causes. For example, it can be due to pressure or damage to the nerves or the use of certain medications. Depending on the cause, simple changes may ease numbness in the pinky finger. In more severe cases, medical treatment may be necessary.
This article will look at some possible causes of numbness in the pinky finger and some treatment options.
It will also offer some tips to try to prevent numbness in the pinky finger.
Numbness in the pinky finger may take several forms. For example, it may feel like a tingling, prickling, or burning sensation. Weakness in the hand or grip may also accompany the numbness.
Numbness may occur from nerve compression or damage, medication use, or nutritional deficiencies. It may also be a symptom of another illness.
Some possible causes of numbness in the pinky finger may include:
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, compression neuropathy refers to pressure on a nerve anywhere along its length.
There are three nerves in the hand:
- the ulnar nerve
- the radial nerve
- the median nerve
Compression of the ulnar nerve can occur at the wrist or elbow and may cause numbness in the pinky finger.
Symptoms may include numbness and tingling in the pinky finger. The ability to bend the ring and pinky fingers should remain. However, it may be challenging to separate the fingers.
Strain from repetitive activities or an injury may also cause ulnar tunnel syndrome.
Like with ulnar tunnel syndrome, there may be numbness and tingling in the pinky finger. Separating the fingers may be challenging. It may also be difficult to bend the ring and pinky fingers.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is typically more common than ulnar tunnel syndrome.
Compression of the median nerve may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome may result in numbness or tingling in the thumb, index, or middle fingers.
Although carpal tunnel syndrome is common, there are several other causes of numbness in the pinky finger.
Peripheral neuropathy often affects the ends of the nerves in the hands and feet. The numbness is likely to be constant and may occur alongside pain.
Myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a condition that affects the musculoskeletal system. Symptoms may occur after injury or due to overuse. Sometimes, it may be more difficult to isolate the cause of the pain.
Injury tends to cause acute MPS. This often resolves over a short period of time and with simple treatments, such as resting and icing the area. Chronic MPS can be harder to diagnose and treat, however.
People may experience localized pain in a specific area or referred pain. Referred pain is pain that a person perceives in an area distant from the site of a painful stimulus or injury. For example, hand or finger numbness can result from tension in the neck or shoulders.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that typically causes widespread pain. It may also cause numbness and tingling that can affect the hands, but it is not usually to the same degree as other nerve conditions.
The use of some medications may cause numbness in the hands and fingers. These medications may include cancer treatment drugs.
For example, chemotherapy is a common cause of neuropathy. One study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found that 46.7% of people receiving treatment for cancer experienced numbness in the fingers or toes.
Another study found that 1,960 people out of a cohort of 4,179 developed chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. This equates to around 48% of the participants.
Some less common causes of numbness in the pinky finger can include:
Treatment options for numbness in the pinky finger depend on the exact cause and diagnosis.
A doctor may diagnose the cause of numbness using:
- a physical examination
- nerve testing
- medical imaging
- blood tests (to rule out nutritional deficiencies)
If numbness in the pinky finger is due to overuse, reducing or stopping the contributing activity is advisable.
If reducing the activity is not possible, the doctor may suggest:
- supporting the wrist with a splint or brace
- padding the elbow (to reduce pressure when resting on it)
- adjusting seating positions when working or driving
- icing the area (to reduce irritation and swelling)
Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help with pain management. Resting and stretching the hands and wrists may also help.
If making simple modifications does not decrease numbness in the pinky finger, a doctor may advise medical intervention. This may take the form of injections or surgery.
If a doctor diagnoses a ganglion cyst, they may drain the fluid from the cyst to reduce pressure. Although this can cause relief from symptoms, the cyst may form again. In that case, the doctor may use keyhole surgery to remove it. A
Steroid injections may help treat compression neuropathy.
Depending on the diagnosis, a doctor may refer a person to other specialists, including:
- a neurologist
- a rheumatologist
- a physical therapist
- an occupational health specialist
Several self-care tips may help prevent numbness in the pinky finger, such as:
- following a healthy diet, which may include reducing sugar intake and alcohol consumption
- setting up ergonomic workspaces and taking frequent breaks
- frequently stretching the neck, shoulder, and arm muscles (to relieve tension)
- avoiding activities that may cause nerve compression
- regularly stretching the hands and wrists
Occasionally, numbness can be a symptom of a medical emergency. If any of the following symptoms accompany the numbness, a person needs immediate medical help:
- chest pain or tightness
- shortness of breath
- severe headache
- an inability to lift the arms
- slurred speech
If numbness in the pinky finger does not go away or interferes with a person’s daily activities, it is advisable to speak with a doctor. They can help determine the cause and suggest some potential treatment options.
There may be several reasons for numbness in the pinky finger. These include nerve damage or compression, the use of certain drugs, nutritional deficiencies, and other illnesses.
The numbness may fade over time, and people may experience improvement by making simple changes. If the numbness does not disappear or the person experiences other symptoms, however, it is advisable to consult a doctor.