one (of ten) fingers feels numb in the cold. What gives?
January 2, 2009 10:38 PM   Subscribe

one (of ten) fingers feels numb in the cold. What gives?

I went skiing today, and it was a cold day, but not extremely so (-10 to -15C). My hands were cold but nothing that I hadn't felt before. When I was on the lift, my right ring finger really started getting painful like pins and needles (it hurt really bad), while all others were fine, and then it went completely numb. I bit on it really hard to see exactly how numb it was, and it was pretty damn numb. I didn't get feeling back in it until I was sitting in the warmth for a good hour, and even after that, it felt like pins and needles, and it still does, hours later. Never did I touch snow or take my gloves out the entire time. Also, I was pretty warm and toasty; not really cold at all, my other fingers and toes were fine, so I assume I had normal circulation. This has never happened before, even though I go skiing quite often.

So my question is, how is it that one finger out of 10 can get like this? and why? I know you are not my doctor, but I have a suspicion that if I waste tax payers money to go to my own doctor to ask him why my finger felt numb in the cold, he may actually get upset at me and throw me out for wasting his time.
posted by shamble to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, it sounds like your finger was frostbitten. It matters not at all how your other fingers were, as frostbite doesn't always strike in an even manner. It could be that you happen to have impaired blood circulation in one finger more than others for some arcane reason, or that glove fingertip was wetter than the rest, or whatever.

But you described exactly how frostbite feels. I got frostbitten years ago in two of my toes. The other ten are fine - the two that were damaged are still painful in the cold, all these years later. It didn't matter that my other eight toes were encased in the same socks and boots and sitting around the same fire that the two frostbitten toes were - for whatever reason, they were struck and the others weren't.
posted by Miko at 10:46 PM on January 2, 2009

Were you wearing a ring? Maybe it impaired the circulation a bit.
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 PM on January 2, 2009

In reading around medical sites it also emphasizes that warm protective clothing should be loose, because too-tight boots, gloves, socks, etc limits blood flow. Blood flow to some of your fingers more than others could have been constricted if your gloves were too tight or ill fitting in places.
posted by Miko at 10:55 PM on January 2, 2009

Pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow can cause this --- have you whacked your funnybone lately or where you leaning on your elbow a lot recently?
posted by Rumple at 12:19 AM on January 3, 2009

Did your fingers change colour? Cold, painful fingers that are pale or bluish-coloured are a symptom of Raynaud's.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:26 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say that I think biting really hard on numb things is rather inadvisable, if this ever happens in the future - I'm pretty sure you could cause further - unnecessary - injury, particularly if there is already some injury because of frostbite.
posted by Theresa at 4:11 AM on January 3, 2009

My mother has a couple of fingers that go white and numb if her hands get cold (and my uncle has the same thing with a toe)---and her doctor said it was Raynaud's syndrome.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:20 AM on January 3, 2009

Pseudostrabismus said what I came to say.

But also, for me, it is routine that my little fingers get cold/numb, and stay that way awhile.
posted by Goofyy at 6:31 AM on January 3, 2009

I had something similar to me when I was going gung ho in the garden one summer. After two weeks of daily work the index and middle finger on my right hand went numb, all other fingers were fine. A doctor prescribed an anti-inflamitory which cleared up the problem nicely; I guess I had a pinched nerve even though there were no outward signs of swelling.

Perhaps you could take a couple of asprin before going skiing next time to see if it makes a difference. Alternatively, RICE.
posted by talkingmuffin at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2009

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