When one of my friends wanted to sign a cheque recently, and the two fingers to hold the pen couldn’t do the job, and a doctor suggested he may have had a partial stroke, he had to embark on serious lifestyle changes to prevent a recurrence or even a bigger blow. Many people take numbness in the fingers and toes not with the seriousness it deserves. They do the same with cramps in the hands and feet as they do with tingling pains in the fingers and toes. I have heard stories of people getting off their beds in the mornings, after a supposedly refreshing long night sleep, only to attempt to stand on their feet and find themselves crashing on the bed or floor. Apparently, there was not enough life in their feet, despite the long hours of supposedly refreshing sleep, to sustain their weight. They need not be obese or overweight for this to happen. I have heard stories, also, of people who do not wear tight-fitting shoes because of leg cramps and who do not realise that their shoes have pulled off until their attention is invited to it by other people. Apparently, they may have lost feeling in their feet. But there are other people who experience sharp soreness in the foot whenever they step on anything, including grains of sand on a marble floor.
Some people are woken from deep sleep by cramps in the feet or hands or by tingling pain in the fingers and toes. Sometime last week, one gentleman told me he had had soreness in the palm of one hand for years and had tried all prescriptions his doctor gave him to no avail. I suggested to him he may be challenged by Carpal Tunnel Sydrome, one of the many causes of the conditions mentioned above.
Poor blood circulation is often the most discussed cause of numbness in any part of the body, especially the hands and the feet. As I was writing this column , a long-standing acquaintance telephoned me to say he had been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, that is damage to peripheral nerves, which open present in some cases of elevated blood sugar and diabetes. These ruled out in his situation, we examined other possible causes which are mentioned here. Poor blood circulation means not enough blood is delivered to the tissues and organs, especially the muscles, that, in turn, means less oxygen supply and poor waste evacuation by the bloodstream. The cells do not get oxygen and other nutrients well enough and they are choked or suffocated by poisons. Thus, they begin to become lifeless or go limp or numb, dying!
One of the causes of poor blood circulation is Raynaud’s syndrome named after French physician Maurice Raynaud, who in 1862, discovered the phenomenon. The phenomenon expresses as cold hands and feet with or without tingling pains in the fingers and toes brought about by spasms of arteries. This condition may be termed primary if the cause(s) are unknown, or secondary if known. Secondary Raynaud’s disease may be caused by Calcium and channel blocker drug, nicotine from cigarette smoking, the use of stimulants, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Carpal tunnel sydrome, strokes, seizures, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lupus, hypothyroidism, birth control pills, cold environment et.c.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
If you turn down the back of your hand, that is palm up, and you observe the middle of your wrist line, you would see a small depression. That is the carpal tunnel. This tunnel provides passage for the median nerve, which runs from the arm to the hand, and tendons which control the fingers. The median nerve controls the thumb, index and middle fingers. It may affect the other fingers as well. People, who do repetitive work with their hands, such as typists, computer operators, cashiers, tailors, knitters, assemble workers, musicians, bakers and hair stylists, teachers who write on blackboards, et.c may so work up the hand that the tendons or the median nerve may become inflamed in the carpal tunnel. When either of these neighbours or both literally overflow their banks and disturb each other, the inflammation results in pain.
The WebMD tells us:
“If you are feeling numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand, consider asking your doctor to check you for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It is caused by pressure on your median nerve, which spans the length of the arm, goes through passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, and ends in the hand. The carpal tunnel is narrowed as a result, usually from swelling. Often, people do not know what brought on their carpal tunnel syndrome.”
These predisposing conditions may include rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, diabetes. The symptoms, says WebMD, may include the following:
“You might first notice that your fingers fall asleep and become numb at night. That usually happens in the evening because of the relaxed position of your hand while sleeping. In the morning, you may wake up with numbness and tingling in your hands that may run all the way to your shoulder.
“What happens in severe cases? As carpal tunnel syndrome become more severe, you may have less grip strength because the muscles in your hand shrink. Pain and muscle cramping would also become worse.
“The median nerve begins to lose function because of the irritation or pressure around it. This leads to (1) slower nerve impulse (2) loss of feeling in the fingers (3) loss of strength and co-ordination, especially the ability to use your thumb to pinch. You would end up with permanent muscle damage and lose function in your hand.”
In South-western Nigeria, involuntary contractions of muscles is called Pajapaja (r: m: r: m). This means the “killer of dogs”. I do not know if muscle cramps or spasms actually kill dogs. But I have seen muscle cramping severe enough to kill human beings where they not quickly arrested. I am a living witness about three times. On the first occasion, I was writing my column on a Sunday afternoon. The pen fell from the table, and I tried to pick it. Bending down, I experience a severe pull of muscles in my abdominal region moving to the chest. It suddenly occurred to me that I could die if my heart got involved. So, instinctively, or rather intuitively, I tried to gradually sit up, stretching backwards. Maybe I made a mistake in trying to sip some water. You know, in confusion, especially when you are alone, you may take the wrong decisions in an emergency. My bed was nearby. I thought that if I made it to be bed and lay on it, that could be more relaxing. But I never made it to the bed. Just as I was about to hold an edge of it, I passed out and lay prostrate on the floor. I do not know for how long I was out. But when I came round, I discovered I banged the corner of the right eye on that edge of the bed I tried to hold, aggravating the vision challenge in this eye that I had once hit on the edge of two intercepting walls in pitch darkness. From that experience, I learned to improve the dosage of dietary supplementation of Calcium and Magnesium. I must have lacked enough Magnesium in the diet to help the muscles and the nerves relax after they contracted, maybe angrily.
My last non-personal experience with muscle cramping involved the young woman who runs this column on the computer. She is Tolulope Christiana Arogundade. She had experienced a stomach flu, which sent her to sleep for about 14 hours before she came to knock out the column. Suddenly, she began to complain of stomach ache and then vomit. Then she began to roll on the floor. Her period was nowhere nearby. So, her conditions must have been due to what she ate, maybe the day before. Each time she was given something to reduce the acid load in her stomach and to calm the nerves and muscles, she vomited them. Finally, she became calm and began to sleep after many attempts to stabilise her on NATURAL CALM, an easily bio-available brand of Magnesium powder.
Muscle cramps affect many people of all ages. As a high schoolboy, I saw many school footballers come down with “muscle pull”. The commonest therapies in those days was to pound the spasmodic muscles with a clenched fist, place an ice pack over them or massage them with Embrocation, a liniment. I grew up to discover that many women have muscle cramping during their menstrual cycles. Old men and women, too, develop cramps at one time or the other. In the elderly, the cramps come through a number of routes. They may have not been eating for the proteins which help to build and maintain muscle mass. Thus, as they grow older, they lose muscle fibers and the surviving ones are not enough to cope with the burden a complete muscle fiber family is meant to shoulder.
Many people suffer from electrolyte deficiencies without knowing they do. The electrolytes are Potassium and Sodium, Calcium and Magnesium, Phosphorus, Chloride and Bicarbonate. In this family also may be placed on Manganese, Copper, Iron and Molybdenum. They help the heart to beat and the muscles to contract healthily. Potassium is found largely in the cells and sodium in spaces around the cells. As Sodium tries to enter the cell, Potassium pushes it out. This sets up an electrical circuit, which brings into the cell nutrients and oxygen and takes away its waste products and toxins. A strong circuit means there is a strong or good “Sodium battery”. A weak or static circuit means the battery, as for example in a motor vehicle battery, is flat or out. If a deficiency of Potassium occurs and Sodium invades the cell, muscles, for example, may become sore and weak. Sodium-invaded cells and tissues tend to develop growths, tumours, even cancers! About 50 percent of the Magnesium in the body is in the bones, complexed to Calcium, Phosphorus and Zinc, among other minerals. About one percent of it is in the blood and about 49 percent in tissues and organs, including muscles. I eat banana, avocados, yam and other potassium-rich foods for Potassium. For Calcium, Magnesium and other minerals, I take Bone Marrow supplements and Zinc, separately for maximum absorption of Zinc. Excessive sweating, as occurs in Nigeria’s present hot weather, may cause excessive loss of Sodium and Chloride. Diarrhoea will let out lots of Chloride and Bicarbonate.
We learn from the electrolytemisconnection.com:
“Muscles need sufficient electrolytes…Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium and Chloride in proper balance to function properly. The body manipulates the balance of these minerals inside and outside of muscle cells in order to get the muscles to contract and relax. An imbalance or deficiency of these minerals can cause problems with the body’s electrical impulses and lead to muscle cramps and/or muscle spasms. Low levels of any of these minerals can allow the muscle to contract but prevent it from relaxing.
“Electrolyte imbalances can occur due to deficiencies in the diet, sweat, urination, diarrhoea, medication side effects, from consuming diuretics and from problems with absorption. Electrolyte deficiency can also be caused by increased demand for minerals in the body such as in the case of pregnancy or healing. Muscle cramps often occur in middle-age and older people and are common in athletes. Some researchers believe that a mineral imbalance can negatively affect blood flow to the muscles and that a deficiency of some minerals, like Potassium can interfere with the muscles ability to use glycogen, a sugar that is the body’s main source of energy…other Athletes and long distance runners and cyclists, even individuals who exercise regularly, are prone to cramps. Often, the individuals have electrolyte deficiencies or imbalance because they lose critical electrolyte in sweat. Other factors associated with muscle cramps include dehydration, in activity or remaining in a particular position, for example on a bicycle for a long period of time.”
When Mrs. Bukola Shakirat Azeez, Chief Executive Officer of BUDGET TRAVELS, was going on pilgrimage to Mecca for the first time last year, my widow’s mite contribution towards the fulfillment of her dream were not just prayers for a spiritual rebirth but a gift of Sea salt as well. This is natural sodium and about 43 biochemical substances. She would be climbing mountains. She could be dehydrated. Sodium helps us to hold water, and those biochemical substances would produce electrolyte in our bodies. Mountain climbing would lead to sweating and loss of Sodium and other electrolytes with water. Sodium contains chloride because it helps to regulate water balance in the body, and because dehydration can cause muscle cramps. Dehydration during excessive sweating during mountain climbing can reduce blood volume, which may reduce oxygen supply to the muscles, which can then go into spasms.
Apart from suggesting intake of fluids which contain these electrolytes (not sports drinks) by people who are prone to cramping, I use Magnesium oil successfully. When some of it is massaged deeply into cramping muscles, the muscles relax.
Blood vessel blockage can reduce blood supply to the hands and the feet, causing tingling pains in these parts of the body. Of more serious concern is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blockage in a deep vein. The tingling pains are a cry of the cells for more blood and oxygen supply. The cause of the blockage should be investigated and addressed.
Diabetic neuropathy is another possible cause of tingling pains in the lower extremities. Through a process called glycation, diabetes damages molecules and cells, including nerve cells. Many people in Nigeria are by now familiar with many of the symptoms of elevated blood sugar…blurry vision, sudden weight loss, excessive thirst, dry mouth and lips, frequent urination, pains and numbness in the hands and feet, increased hunger, yeast infections and candidiasis, poor wound healing, shortness of breadth, drowsiness or lethargy et.c.
Pregnancy may impose pressure on the nerves which runs down the legs, the sciatica. Some Vitamin deficiencies can cause tingling pains. Vitamin B12 deficiency in particular, can cause havoc. Some doctors give Vitamin B6 supplements to ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and tarsal tunnel syndrome (the equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome) in the legs. Elderly people may have a Vitamin B12 deficiency even when their diet is rich in it because they do not have that “intrinsic factor” which makes this Vitamin absorbable in the intestine. Their best bet in this situation is a sublingual Vitamin B12 supplement placed under the tongue from where it enters the bloodstream. Some signs of this Vitamin deficiency include shortness of breathe, chest pain, digestive problems, dizziness, cold hands and feet, tingling in hands and feet, enlarged liver, headaches et.c.
While diabetes and high blood pressure are well known causes of kidney failure, this condition, too, may present symptoms of tingling pains in feet and hands. So, it is advisable that anyone going through these pains check his or her kidneys.
Diseases, too, can cause a problem in the hands and feet. There is an army of them…Lyme disease, Lupus, Shingles, Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS et.c.
Some drugs are not excluded from the fray. Among them may be those which are prescribed for cancer (chemotherapy), HIV/AIDS, hypertension (calcium channel blockers) et.c.
Cervical and spiral stenosis may have a hand in it. This is the narrowing of neck and spinal bones which pinch nerves which pass through them. Herniation or the breaking of the discs on which these bones rest may also be a culprit.
Exposure to poisons such as heavy metals (alcohol, organic insecticides, cadmium and Thalium found also in lipsticks), arsenic and mercury, lead, glue.
As numbness may be caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and poor blood circulation, these conditions need to be evaluated and addressed, if they are the culprits. Vitamin B6 is prescribed by some physicians for numbness. It is one of the constituents of a nutritional supplement sold in Nigeria named CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME. The supplement, like other proprietary brands, is targeted at eliminating fluid build-up in the carpal tunnel and hand, checking inflammation and pain, and promoting blood circulation. So, for these purposes the list of useful food supplements may include CURCUMIN 2000X (for pain and inflammation), LION’S MANE MUSHROOM (for restoring nerve health and repairing damage), CAYENNE (for dissolving blockages in blood vessels which impedes circulation to hands and feet and cause tingling), FERRUM PHOS (the cell or tissue salt which acts alike), POMEGRANATE TEA and LECITHIN (they act likewise) RED KIDNEY BEAN POD TEA (for lowering blood sugar, combating obesity and reducing high cholesterol levels and improving kidney function) and MAGNESIUM for calming the muscles and nerves. Not much of Magnesium Oxide is bio-available. Far more easily absorbable is Magnesium Citrate. The multi-award winning supplement, NATURAL CALM, indeed, calms pinched nerves and calms the pain of nerves and muscle spasms. Besides, like GERMAN CHAMOMILE, it promotes sleep. It supports bone health as well. And in many people whose organs are Magnesium deficient, it helps to readily restore balance through its bio-availability. The Magnesium cell or tissue salts, such as MAG PHOS, are indispensable, too. Some years ago, a young woman who worked in my office, Hannah Oshilaran, experienced serious menstrual pains at work. We had her abdomen well massaged with Magnesium Oil and sent for her boyfriend (now her husband), who was to take her to their doctor, as he worked at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). But before he arrived, she had fallen into deep peaceful sleep. The hospital trip was no longer necessary. Such, I believe, can be the magic wand of Magnesium oil massage in Carpal or Tarsal tunnel-induced numbness, cramping and tingling pains in the fingers and toes.