Did the cut on my hand damage my pinky?
September 1, 2009 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I cut the lower half of my palm with a piece of shattered glass this afternoon. The cut was about 1/4" long, fairly deep, and about half an inch under the base of my pinky. I applied pressure, washed the wound with plenty of soap and water, and applied peroxide before putting on a band-aid. The bleeding has stopped and the edges of the cut seem comfortably closed up, but I experience a dull pain when I bend my pinky finger. The rest of my fingers feel fine, but I can't fully bend my pinky due to the pain. I've buddy-taped it for now, but I'm curious as to whether this is just my body's response to the pain from the cut or whether I might have damaged a nerve.
posted by whitedoor to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
I experience a dull pain when I bend my pinky finger.

Stop doing this.
posted by hermitosis at 8:17 PM on September 1, 2009

Probably not, unless the cut was not "centered" in the palm area. IANAD but here is a map of the nerves in the hand.
posted by shownomercy at 8:34 PM on September 1, 2009

You may regret not getting a stitch or two. Mostly for the way it will heel which is with uneven and 'uglier' scar tissue. I speak from experience. Pain means you can feel which comes from nerves. Not feeling anything might be greater cause for concern that you cut a nerve. and...IANYD.
posted by Muirwylde at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2009

Is it possible that the pain-when-bending is due to some inflammation in the area around the cut? Maybe it hurts because you're compressing a somewhat swollen, wounded area, rather than due to the cut itself.
posted by foodmapper at 8:43 PM on September 1, 2009

Your palm is pretty tough - the skin is thick - and tends to heal quickly. The pain come from the fact that - duh - you cut your palm, and the inability to bend your pinky comes from the fact that your hand is probably slightly swollen.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 PM on September 1, 2009

hmm, i would say that there should be some cause for concern because it seems like your pinkie was relatively undamaged, but causes pain when you bend it. IANAD, but to me, that means that some part of the connective tissue between your finger and your wrist was damaged. i know, it's expensive to see a doctor, but if the pain doesn't subside in 2 days, please do.
posted by emptyinside at 8:50 PM on September 1, 2009

I really think you should go see a doctor, because you may need stitches.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:57 PM on September 1, 2009

IANAD, however, I would say you should probably have gone to the ER.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 8:57 PM on September 1, 2009

I am not a doctor but I am very clumsy and often injure myself in stupid, bloody ways. Go to the ER. You could have severed a tiny something that matters. The ER staff can answer this question for you definitively. Not even a doctor mefite can answer this question for you without inspecting your hand.
posted by vincele at 9:06 PM on September 1, 2009

I'm in the "don't worry too much camp."

Anyways, if you did damage a nerve, going to a doctor doesn't mean it's going to be fixed. I know plenty of people that damaged nerves, racked up medical bills, and still have issues.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:16 PM on September 1, 2009

I once sliced the base of my thumb (just missing the nerve) and it required maybe a dozen stitches to close up. For a few weeks I really could not use my thumb (which turns out to be a problem) and in fact I couldn't hold too much weight in my hand at all while it healed. IANAD, but I think cuts that deep just hurt, period, and take a while to heal. Bending you pinky may be pulling on the cut skin, which causes pain.

You may very well want to go see a doctor, because stitches might be in order.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:53 PM on September 1, 2009

I sliced my hand open across the palm many years ago. I went to my regular doctor and she took me in right away. She had one of her interns tape my palm rather than stitch it. My doctor said at the time she was glad I came to her because if I had gone to ER they would have stitched my palm back together as a quick fix rather than the more time consuming repair her intern did on me. Just my comparative experience, but I would say seek out a doctor whose treatment style you are familiar with if you are not in overwhelming need of medical attention.
posted by effluvia at 9:56 PM on September 1, 2009

Best answer: If it's not continuing to bleed, stitches are not necessary; stitches basically are to close wounds that are prone to opening themselves.

As for the movement impairment; injury prompts inflammatory response. Is your hand swollen, red, warmer, or aching at all? The swelling will definitely inhibit the range of motion for your fingers. Injury response brings in a lot of fluids (filled with, hopefully, good stuff if interkeukins and white blood cells) and your hands are *really* thin bags over bones.

If you damaged a nerve, it'd be numb. The worry is damaging a tendon (range of motion).

If you want to check; take a pin and prick the tip of your pinky finger. Feel it? Major nerve wasn't damaged.
posted by porpoise at 10:55 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Pain generally doesn't indicate nerve damage. Numbness does.

But, generally, the kind of nerve damage that occurs with skin cuts (even deeper ones) isn't much cause for concern -- the surface nerve fibres only carry sensory signals. Nerves carrying motor control signals are buried much deeper below the flesh, and are usually on the anterior side of limbs and digits.

I sliced my index finger quite deeply once, and there is a very small numb spot just above the 2nd joint. But control of the finger was not affected at all. Indeed, callouses cause me more problems than anything else.
posted by randomstriker at 11:00 PM on September 1, 2009

It's pretty unlikely that you have damaged a nerve - the nerves in your palm are buried pretty deep under tissue. I would very much recommend that you not use hydrogen peroxide on the wound from here on out. It's a pretty caustic substance and can actually inhibit healing in wounds. Go out and get some antibiotic ointment - dress the wound with that and cover with a bandage. Watch for swelling, redness and puss (some initial swelling is normal after such an injury), which are all signs of infection. Other than that, you are fine.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:06 AM on September 2, 2009

I'm less concerned w/ nerve damage and a medical necessity for stitches than I am about how well you irrigated that bastard. I think your "dull pain" is swelling/bruising/and general trauma. Naproxen sodium or tylenol for the win. However, getting back to your cut---

Those fast sharp lacerations often go deeper than you think, and because they close up so well it's easy to leave bits of...bad stuff...in there. Especially on hands, which are notoriously dirty even when they've been washed in the near past.

I'm a prick bastard when it comes to irrigating those kinds of injuries. I'll force it open a little bit, and spray saline (eg. contact lens solution from the bottle) at high pressure into the wound, or use a needle-less syringe if one is around, irrigating from the deep side to the shallow side usually, so that a good turn of the injury and one final blast can push anything out of the wound.

Also, peroxide is great of abrasions and simple cuts. It's not so hot for actual continued disinfection. There's a lot of back-and-forth on the topic, but IMO for a wound that's going to be closed up, it's all about the Iodine (or Betadine, etc.)

I'm a fan of closing with newskin if it's possible or, when not possible, cyanoacrylate (super glue.) Airtight seal to keep out nasty junks.

Just my 2cents. I am not a doctor. I was an wilderness emergency tech for several years.
posted by TomMelee at 5:07 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I did the same thing with glass to my pinky finger a few years ago, except the cut was maybe 1/2 an inch long. Maybe a bit more, looking at the scar...it was also all jagged.

But, I thought it was going to be fine at first, and then the more I waited, the more the inner flesh was like, blebbing out from the sides of the cut. It was mega gross. After a few hours I went to the ER and they put in 5-6 stitches. The scar is barely noticeable now.

I also couldn't bend it for a long time, and it was numb for about 6 months afterwords. So, there was nerve damage, but they grew back and I have all the feeling now. I don't know if this had anything to do with the stitches rather than letting it just heal.
posted by hybridvigor at 10:09 AM on September 2, 2009

Response by poster: Looks like I just wound up with a bit of inflammation that spread down to the pinky. It peaked a few hours after the initial cut, but it quickly subsided after a day. The range of movement is completely restored, and the cut is almost completely healed. Thanks for all the input.
posted by whitedoor at 9:02 PM on September 3, 2009

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