Dr. Dean

Why Are My Arms and Leg Numb When I Wake Up?

Posting Date: 06/07/1999

Tina: I have been waking up with numbness in my limbs over a period of a few months. I also have pain in the palm of my hand. When I make a fist my hands feel like they are swollen with water, but they don't look swollen.

At first only my fingers were numb, but now I am numb all the way up to my elbows. Today my right leg was numb, too. Feeling comes back to my arms and leg almost as soon as I'm awake and aware.

I thought I might have carpal tunnel syndrome, but why is my leg numb? When I was pulling weeds this weekend, I did lean on my leg until it was quivering.

Dr. Dean: Numbness upon waking is very common, and this set of symptoms almost always turns out to be nothing more than compromised blood flow to the nerves you press on while you sleep. Because, as you found, the numbness is easily and quickly reversed as soon as you get your blood flowing again, I don't think you have anything to worry about.

My hands often go numb when I lie on my back in bed with my arms at my sides, because of pressure on the ulnar nerve that passes through the elbow.

The swollen feeling you describe is the result of a little extra fluid in your hands. Gravity can bring on swelling, if you stand all day long, and lying on your hands while you sleep can increase the fluid there as well.

Age, too, causes us to awake stiffer from one morning to the next.

People often associate numbness with multiple sclerosis, but I want to reassure you that MS doesn't act as you've described.

I'm not going to list the symptoms of MS, because when something is out of whack with our bodies, we can become so overly attentive that we begin to feel every symptom we hear about. Excess self-examination can make traumas out of twinges.

I think the discomforts you feel are the natural results of how hard you're working your body. Of course, I wouldn't diagnose you on the air, and I am careful with the health of my millions of listeners. See your doctor, or call me back if your symptoms get worse or if a new one develops.