What causes a tingling feeling in my arm?

By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

For the last two weeks, I have been getting an on and off painless sharp feeling similar to a mild electrical circuit in my left arm. It occurs in an interval of 30 minutes, four to five times a day. I would only feel it while at work where I use the computer a lot; but yesterday, I felt the same while at home. What can I do?

Dear Pamela,
We feel pain whenever the body, through nerves, detects impending or real tissue destruction or injury to a body part. Depending on the injury, one may feel burning, sharp, throbbing and in your case, electric shock-like pain. Electric shock pain is likely when a nerve is threatened with injury or has been injured, including through pressure effects.
The arm has many nerves that run just under the skin and hence the nerves may be exposed to pressure injuries. This is especially true about the ulnar nerve that passes in a groove of the humerus bone at the elbow.

Repetitive pressure on the nerve against the table as one “mouses” away at the computer may injure the nerve, causing the pain. This repetitive injury or mouse syndrome may lead to pain as one works on the computer but continued use of the computer will injure the nerve more, with pain occurring even when not using the computer.
Today people are using mobile phones which cause one to bend the neck sideways and used more often as is always the case can put pressure on neck nerves that serve the arms, leading or worsening electric shock-like nerve pains in the arms.

Easing the pressure on the ulnar nerve by using a small pillow on the elbow may help if the cause is the mouse. Using speaker phone for the mobile phone or minimising taking or making calls altogether may help. If this does not help, you may require visiting your doctor not only for medication but also physiotherapy exercises if you doctor deems that fit. Also the doctor may want to look out for other causes of your pain.


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