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woke up in middle of the night sleeping on my

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Posted on Sat, 30 Mar 2019
Question: woke up in middle of the night sleeping on my left side. Noticed I could not close my left hand. I could move my arm and wrist but not my fingers and thumb. When morning arrived I could move my thumb and index finger but not the other three fingers. As the day has progressed I am now able to move all my fingers, but the pinky and finger next to it are very weak. Also my left rib side feels a little peculiar. Does this sound serious. Never experienced this before. I am a 65 year old male. Had a quadruple by pass 2 years ago but have been fine with cardiologist.
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Answered by Dr. Aaron Branch (1 hour later)
Brief Answer:
Peripheral nerve compression

Detailed Answer:
Hello, I'm Dr. Branch, thanks for using Ask a Doctor. As long as you were able to move your arm and wrist without any problems, and you don't have any other associated symptoms such as slurred speech or leg weakness on the left side, I would suspect that you have a temporary nerve damage from compression on your left arm. This does commonly affect the finger flexors and extensors as you've described, and may have affected both see radial and ulnar nerves. Especially for the radial nerve, this commonly occurs when sleeping on the arm, and has been called Saturday Night Palsy because this often happens when people are intoxicated and sleep on their arm without knowing it. The ulnar nerve is often also affected, as it sounds like in your case.

Recovery may take several days to weeks, but generally you should recover from this completely. If you are still having any weakness or symptoms after several weeks, I would suggest getting this evaluated to see if there is permanent damage or some other cause.

I hope that helps and makes sense, please let me know if you have any other questions about any of that and I would be glad to discuss it with you further.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Raju A.T
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Dr. Aaron Branch

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2011

Answered : 917 Questions

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woke up in middle of the night sleeping on my

Brief Answer: Peripheral nerve compression Detailed Answer: Hello, I'm Dr. Branch, thanks for using Ask a Doctor. As long as you were able to move your arm and wrist without any problems, and you don't have any other associated symptoms such as slurred speech or leg weakness on the left side, I would suspect that you have a temporary nerve damage from compression on your left arm. This does commonly affect the finger flexors and extensors as you've described, and may have affected both see radial and ulnar nerves. Especially for the radial nerve, this commonly occurs when sleeping on the arm, and has been called Saturday Night Palsy because this often happens when people are intoxicated and sleep on their arm without knowing it. The ulnar nerve is often also affected, as it sounds like in your case. Recovery may take several days to weeks, but generally you should recover from this completely. If you are still having any weakness or symptoms after several weeks, I would suggest getting this evaluated to see if there is permanent damage or some other cause. I hope that helps and makes sense, please let me know if you have any other questions about any of that and I would be glad to discuss it with you further.