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Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, US Board Certified MD
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 10330
Experience:  Family Physician practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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My left arm goes to sleep (numb) when I am sleeping on my back

Resolved Question:

My left arm goes to sleep (numb) when I am sleeping on my back or on my left side
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Medical
Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 4 years ago.
Hello,

Is it your entire arm that becomes numb?
Does it ever happen during the day?
Do you have any neck pain or stiffness?

Dr Abby
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Forearm and hand
Never happens during the day
No neck pain or stiffness
Expert:  Dr. Abby replied 4 years ago.
Ok, thank you...

One of the more common causes of numbness that occurs at night is carpal tunnel syndrome.

This develops when the nerve that supplies the thumb, pointer and middle finger becomes irritated or compressed as it passes through a tunnel/band of tissue in the wrist. Usually, people have numbness mainly in these fingers, but some people describe tingling or numbness of the entire hand that radiates up the forearm. Other symptoms may include pain in the wrist and hand.
In its earlier stages, symptoms occur at night. As it worsens, symptoms are present during the day, especially after doing repetitive activities with the hands.

People at risk for the development of this syndrome include people who work on computers/typewriters or do a lot of repetitive work with their hands.

The nerve that supplies the hands/forearm can also be irritated anywhere along its course. It does not have to be the wrist, it can occur at the elbow or at the level of the neck. In your case, because your symptoms occur while laying on your back, the irritation may not be at the wrist and are at the neck (ie bulging disk) instead.

A nerve conduction test/EMG test is performed in order to determine exactly where the problem is occuring. Your doctor may be able to tell by physical exam where the likely area is, but the EMG is the test of choice.

Until you can see your doctor, you can try taking an anti-inflammatory before bed if you do not have high blood pressure or a history of ulcers/bleeding problems (ie aleve or ibuprofen).

Feel free to ask any follow up questions you may have,

Dr Abby

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