“I often wake up with a numb hand. I shake it, and the numbness goes away. Could this be a sign of something harmful?”

It might be. Numbness and tingling in the fingertips and hand at night are classic symptoms of nerve compression, which can occur anywhere from the neck down through the arm to the wrist.

Your sleep position could be putting pressure on your shoulder, arm or hand, which temporarily compresses nerves.

But many conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or bone spurs (bony growths on the edge of a bone) in the neck, arm or hand, can cause nerve compression and result in numbness, tingling and pain.

Poor posture, repetitive hand movements such as typing, or an injury can also put pressure on nerves in the arm and/or hand.

If your numbness hasn’t gone away in a few weeks or seems to be getting worse, you should see your doctor. He/she will perform a physical exam and may give you a nerve conduction test, which uses electrodes to measure nerve functioning.

Depending on the cause, treatments include a splint to wear on your hand…physical therapy…medication to relieve pain and inflammation…and, in serious cases, surgery to relieve pressure on the affected nerve.

In some cases, numbness and tingling in the hands can indicate a more serious condition, such as multiple sclerosis or diabetes. In these instances, however, you are likely to have other symptoms, such as numbness and tingling in the feet.