View Full Version : Hand Numbness?

Blue Horn
July 1st, 2005, 12:45 PM
If I do too much Butterfly and Breaststroke sprinting my hand gets numb the next day or so later. It gets numb where the wrist and palm connect, right in the middle and radiates to my pinky and the finger next to it. It was much worse and happened more often, but as I have gotten into better shape it only really happens when I do a lot of Butterfly and Breast. I also noticed that it happens in conjunction with sleeping on my shoulder wrong.

Is this just something that will continue to go away with strengthening, or is it an imingement syndrome that I should have checked out with my doctor?


July 1st, 2005, 04:00 PM
usually affects the thumb and first 2 fingers of the hand (and the wrist in that same area). I think there is another hand syndrome that deals with the last 2 fingers of the hand and radiates from the elbow. Cubital tunnel seems to ring a bell.

The Ulnar nerve comes down from the elbow and targets the last 2 fingers of the hand.

I don't think a visit to a doctor would hurt. In fact--it might solve a problem before it becomes a MAJOR problem. The fact that it continues to hurt for a day or so after swimming AND bothers you with a sleeping position indicates that something is going on.

July 1st, 2005, 04:50 PM
My hand falls asleep after about 54 continuous laps. I've just assumed it's due to poor technique.

July 1st, 2005, 04:57 PM
Cubital tunnel is correct--the area at the elbow where the ulnar nerve can become entrapped. Apparently this can occur with repeated flexion and extension of the elbow. Splinting (esp. at night) with the elbow in an extended position may help. It would be worthwhile to have it checked out.

Geek, your clown suit may be a bit too tight.

Tom Ellison
July 2nd, 2005, 01:23 AM
I weight in with Doc's opinion on this....it is a nerve issue. I had the same thing happen to me and after I hung in a brace over a door, both head up and head down...it went away.

Maybe that is where Mr. Moose came from....who knows....

July 2nd, 2005, 02:00 PM
This is a very interesting thread for me. When I swim A LOT of breaststroke or drive a long distance (not that I can swim as far as I can drive... lol) my little finger on my right hand gets kinda tingley numb. What makes it even more interesting, I broke both my ulnars at the elbows about 9 years ago and was in surgery for many many hours getting my bones, which, according to my orthopedists, looked like 'corn flake,' put back together. Even after aggressive physical therapy I don't have full extension or flexion of either arm... right worse than left. I had no idea that it could be a carpel tunnel kinda thing going on.

July 2nd, 2005, 11:16 PM
This could be computer related.

I have been diagnosed with Thorasic outlet syndrome. Basically a circulation problem from the heart down both arms. Your problem may not be swimming related, but irritated when you swim. Swimming is helps my circulation. When your arms are forward, you pinch the artery that passes between your first and second ribs and restrict circulation, causing your arms to fall asleep, which causes fatigue and numbness.

Also, the nerve that sits on the inside of your elbow gets irritated when you rest your arm on the armsrest of a chair and do a lot of mousing. A co-worker of mine recently has surgery to move the nerve. Once in they discovered the sheath around the nerve basically gone - worn off.

My problems affect just about everything else I do.

Kevin in MD
July 3rd, 2005, 10:54 AM
You've got a nerve being pinched somewhere.

The ulnar nerve part that is being mentioned is likely. I have found the dreaded dropped elbow seems to exacerbate this for me.

There's also a possibility that it is impngement syndrome, also common in swimmers but more of a whole hand type of thing. Impingement seems to respond readily to rehab exercises of the sort you can find described on the usa swimming site under shoulder injury and rehab.

July 7th, 2005, 12:01 PM
I used to get it really bad from work ( I was a carpenter ) both hands would fall asleep in the middle of the night and wake me up. It went away when I found a new professsion. While swimming both hands would get numb at around 400m freestyle, now its just the left as I've adjusted my stroke somewhat. For me it's all of the above, but for the most part poor technique. I found that if I really stretch my stroke out the numbness will go away.

July 7th, 2005, 04:03 PM
This same numbness started with me about a month or so ago. I attributed it to the fact that I had started lifting weights in April, and have scaled back my weights a bit, and the numbness has gone down.

There was one morning when I woke up after sleeping on that arm and had trouble moving my 2 smallest fingers. It can also happen if I'm talking to someone on the phone for 20+ minutes where I have to hold the phone, usually prefer that ear.

Along with scaling back the weights, I've also increased stretching, and watched my swimming. Actually, the swimming seems to help since I can stretch the arms out. I'd agree that a bit of breast (like a 200) does tend to aggrivate it a bit.

July 7th, 2005, 05:48 PM
All this still sounds like circulation problems. When body parts fall asleep they are not getting enough blood. My problems definitely bother me more at night unless I keep my arms straight and lay on my back. Work on your posture during the day - while driving, sitting at a desk, etc. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, elbows more open.

July 8th, 2005, 10:36 AM
It is most likely not a circulation problem. Circulatory problems are usually associated with pain (claudcation) and discoloration (redness and eventually gangrene). The distribution of the symptoms suggests an ulnar nerve problem.

July 8th, 2005, 01:26 PM
I'm not a doctor, just giving a different point of view, speaking from my personal experience. I don't have gangrene or discoloration but the blood flow down my arms gets restricted (a circulation problem) which causes my arms to fall asleep (at night and when I'm on the phone - using a headset helps) and my muscles and tendons to get fatigued (I also experience burning in my forearms and hand weakness). I've been dealing with this since 1990, had physical therapy and was diagnosed by an orthopedic doctor.

This was not caused by swimming - for me - it was caused by bad posture and sitting at a computer 40 hours a week.

Blue Horn
July 9th, 2005, 08:31 AM
I guess I should have also mentioned that I shattered the head of my humerous racing supercross. They had to stitch all the little splinters back together and put the reformed head back into the shaft with a permanent bone screw. For several years I had so called "phantom pains in my elbow and wrist. Not even pain pills worked because I had thrashed my nerve and it was growing back together.

I also played MLB in college and seperated my shoulder a few times.

Thanks to swimming most of my shoulder pain has gone away. It only hurts when I swim long sets of Butterfly or long sprint sets of Breaststroke. That is why I figured it was some type of impingment going on some where.

Thank you for all of you replies, I appreciate them.


July 11th, 2005, 09:44 AM
Originally posted by iswim41
All this still sounds like circulation problems. When body parts fall asleep they are not getting enough blood.

This is a common misconception (it's usually not a blood flow problem). That having been said, your point about thoracic outlet syndrome is a good one, although this is a relatively uncommon condition. Keep in mind that in thoracic outlet syndrome, symptoms can originate from compression of nerves, arteries, or both. As you said, treatment usually involves physical therapy, although surgery is an option if this fails.

July 11th, 2005, 01:12 PM
Yes. My surgery option was to have my first rib removed. I declined. Up to this point my condition has been circulatory. I'm concerned about the beginnings of nerve problems. OUr new computer system at work is very mouse intensive.

As rare as thorasic outlet syndrome is, another woman at my job was diagnosed with it, too. We are both tall (me 6 feet, she's 6'2), which contributes to bad posture at our computers. When I completely think about my posture my symtoms lesson.

Swimming helps. My co-worker was told to start swimming, but ultimately her problems worsened because she hadn't been swimming her whole life. She just had surgery on her elbow to move the nerve from the inside to the top.

I'm off to swim now!

July 11th, 2005, 01:33 PM
I have become a big proponent of physical therapy. Unfortunately, I think it's underutilized.

Somewhere I read that we should not think of swimming to stay fit, but rather staying fit to swim.

March 2nd, 2009, 03:12 PM
I suffer from similar symptoms, mild daytime numbness is arms and hands, severe nighttime numbness as well as trigger point pains in shoulders.

I was diagnosed with mild carpal tunnel and cubitol tunnel syndrome. Sleeping with an elbow brace helps. I have not found a wrist brace comfortable enough to sleep in. The problem comes and goes and I only recently noticed that it re-occurs after swimming laps ( I swim 1 mile twice a week). It gets more aggravated if I swim backstroke.

I am now wondering if it might be TOS (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome).

March 2nd, 2009, 07:46 PM
i kind of have this problem exept opposite...my hands and part of my arms will get really numb and it kinda gets me scared...anything to worry about?

March 3rd, 2009, 12:03 PM
My hand falls asleep after about 54 continuous laps. I've just assumed it's due to poor technique.

My hands did that last time we did a T-30. I think that I was not relaxing the forearm and hand muscles on the freestyle recovery.