Top Causes for a Numb Pinky Finger

The dexterity of our fingers provides the ability to perform numerous invaluable tasks, so when a numb pinky finger complicates their function it can be a problem.

Anatomy of the fingers

Three distinct joints in each finger make a wide range of motion possible; multiplied by five on each hand.  With this type of adroitness, humans are able to grasp, flex and clench the fingers simultaneously in order to pick up items, to hold on to items and to release them.  The fingers are also able to be utilized individually; helpful when typing, for example, or to point out an interesting sight or to give a co-worker the thumbs up signal.  Over time, each of the fingers has gained their own names; anatomical, astronomical and common.  They are most well known, from the inside of the hand to the outside, as the thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger and the pinky finger.  They each have their own individual uses as well as being an integral, synergistic part of a whole.  When something occurs to disrupt the capabilities of just one digit, it affects that finger as well as the performance of the entire hand.           

The smallest of all of the fingers is the pinky, also known as a baby finger or little finger.  While in of itself, it has no specific duties, it contributes greatly to the strength of the hand.  Located on the outside of the hand, it is susceptible to certain maladies that can inhibit its ability to partner the remaining digits.  A common complaint is that of a numb pinky finger, which can have several causes although the two most common are ulnar nerve entrapment and finger paresthesia.

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

The ulnar nerve is one which runs from the collarbone down through the inner upper arm, through the elbow down to the outer side of the hand.  The nerve supplies sensations to the pinky finger, and also controls the function of numerous small muscle groups in the hand. It is one of three major nerves in the arm, and is likely better known as the “funny bone” sensation felt when the elbow is hit in a specific spot. This same nerve can become compressed for reasons that are largely not understood.  When compression occurs, normal sensations to the pinky finger are stalled; numbness, achiness and difficulty maneuvering the finger could all be experienced.  Treating the compression will depend on the condition, but may be either non-surgical or surgical.  It is important to note that the common ailment called “carpal tunnel syndrome” does not affect the small fingers.

Finger Paresthesia

This condition is the result of nerve damage, and can cause tingling, pain and a numb pinky finger when the nerve involved is the ulnar nerve.  The median nerve, one of the three primary nerves that run through the arm, will cause the same symptoms in the thumb, index and middle fingers if it has become damaged; often the result of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Once the underlying cause for the nerve damage has been determined, treatment can ensue. 

Pinched Nerve

Comparing a pinched nerve to a kink in a garden hose provides a fairly accurate picture of how the condition can affect an individual.  Nerves send electronic response “messages” to the brain by the outer membrane, which is nourished by a flow of fluid inside the nerve.  When pinched, the “messages” are inhibited, as is the fluid flow.  When unclear messages are sent, numbness can occur to the parts of the body through which the nerve travels, including fingers.

Numbness in the fingers could be attributable to many conditions.  Temporary, infrequent numbness is very common; recurrent numbness is a condition that requires a doctor’s intervention.  With the numerous tasks our hands perform, keeping optimal dexterity is important.

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