Hand-arm vibration syndrome

Hand-arm vibration syndrome typically develops in the hands, fingers and arms after using vibrating tools. It was previously called vibration white finger but the name was changed since other symptoms develop aside from having white fingers.

What are the possible causes?

Hand-arm vibration syndrome is usually caused by repeated and frequent use of hand-held vibrating devices or tools such as chainsaws, power drills and pneumatic drills.

The condition might also be brought about by holding or working with machinery that continuously vibrates. It is still vague how vibration causes the condition. It might be due to minimal but repeated injury to the small nerves and blood vessels in the fingers. Over time, these gradually lose some of their function and trigger symptoms.

Hand-arm vibration syndrome

Hand-arm vibration syndrome is usually caused by repeated and frequent use of hand-held vibrating devices or tools such as chainsaws, power drills and pneumatic drills.

Indications of hand-arm vibration syndrome

The nerves are initially affected which leads to changes in sensation. This can be followed by the development of Raynaud’s phenomenon from the changes in the blood vessels and results to white fingers. In addition, these changes can also lead to muscle aches and pains.

Nerve symptoms

  • Loss of sensation or numbness and/or tingling in one or several fingers that can be mild which only affects the tips or come and go.
  • If severe, there is lasting numbness that can spread along the affected fingers. This causes clumsiness and difficulty performing fine tasks such as difficulty fastening buttons or holding screws, nails and coins.

Raynaud’s phenomenon (white finger symptoms)

Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs as episodes that are triggered by cold weather or touching cold objects. A usual episode of the condition occurs as:

  • Initially, fingers turn white and cold due to narrowing of the small blood vessels.
  • The fingers turn bluish in appearance due to consumption of oxygen from the diminished supply of blood in the constricted blood vessels.
  • The fingers turn bright red due to dilation of the blood vessels and restoration of good blood flow. This can cause throbbing, tingling and pain.

In some cases, they do not experience all the distinctive color changes but still have episodes of uncomfortable, cold and pale fingers. The length of every episode can last for minutes to hours. The degree of pain or discomfort varies from one individual to another. In addition, the symptoms settle after each episode but one or more bluish fingers can persist in severe cases.

Aches and pains

The minor damage to the joints, muscles and bones can lead to aches and pains in the hands and lower arm. Additionally, the grip strength might be weakened.

Prevention of hand-arm vibration syndrome

  • Hold or grip tools in a loose manner as possible and in changing positions
  • Make sure that tools are properly maintained
  • Tools should be used correctly and use the right one for a specific task. The objective is not to utilize excessive grip or use one longer than needed.
  • Observe regular breaks at least 10 minutes away from the tool. Remember that short periods of work are better than extended periods without any break.
  • Keep the body warm while working particularly the hands.
  • Avoid smoking since chemicals in tobacco can disrupt the flow of blood.


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