Cut finger, badly managed, cold and tingling - help.
December 27, 2011 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Cut finger with nerve damage can a damaged nerve heal? How? Need advice - holistic and otherwise.

Yes, I know you're not my doctor. I am only looking for advice that is practical and useable. Nothing alarming or to make me feel worse.

So - a week and a half ago - I lacerated my finger pretty badly with a knife. Went to the doctor who told me to go to the ER. In the meantime the wound was cleaned and bandaged. Was asked by the nurse if I had a tetanus shot. I said no. She brought over the injection, I read on the box that it contained diptheria and formaldyhyde and opted out. Didn't go to the ER. No stiches though it needed them. I went 2 days after and the ER refused to do the stiches citing liklihood of infection setting in as a result.

Now eleven days later there appears to be nerve damage. I've taken very good care of the wound, changing the bandages, cleaning it - there was a little pain nothing I couldn't handle. Some numbness but nothing like this afternoon where shooting electrical pins and needles were vibrating in the finger. I figure I severed an already injured nerve.

Finding someone who can do micro-surgery will probably be a hard thing where I am situated geographically. There is no discoloration that I can see but the finger feels cold. What can I be doing now on a practical level - holistically to help myself get through this?

Advice thanks.
posted by watercarrier to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
IANAD but I did slice my finger nearly off with a knife as a careless teenager.

You're going to have to go back to the doctor, I'm afraid, if you have nerve damage and you want a shot in hell of repairing it. If you actually severed the nerve, and are not getting treatment ASAP to repair it, it is likely that you are going to form a neuroma (a nerve scar) and have that zappy painful feeling there for good.

It sounds like from your previous questions, you prefer things on the holistic, non-medical-establishment side of treatment, but there isn't anything you're going to be able to accomplish aside from a painful neuroma if you don't get this fixed. Go see a doctor. Aloe isn't going to help. Surgery is going to help.
posted by juniperesque at 6:13 AM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sorry to hear you sliced up your poor finger so badly. One of my friends had a very similar (but untreated) hand injury when he was a teenager, and the numbness has never gone away. He's learned to live with it. You could be stuck with permanent nerve damage, but you won't know unless you talk to a doctor.

By the way: That shot didn't "contain" infectious diphtheria any more than it contained infectious tetanus. It was an immunization. If you were comfortable getting a shot for tetanus, there's no reason to be uncomfortable getting one for diphtheria. I had that same shot for a nasty cut last year, yet I walk the earth to this day.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:15 AM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Puzzled that you trust microsurgery but not, apparently, immunizations. Anyway, I've had abdominal surgery twice, and this: "Some numbness but nothing like this afternoon where shooting electrical pins and needles were vibrating" was characteristic of when the nerves were regrowing across the incision. I also felt a lot of "zings." So. Irritating. Makes me feel squirmily uncomfortable, but it did taper off the first time and I assume it will the second time (still regrowing). The process of nerve regrowth, however, took months after the surgery, and there is no guarantee you will regain all feeling. (I definitely have an inch or so of an 8-inch incision that's still numb, feels weird when the rest of it is mostly normal.)

You do need to talk to a doctor to see if, medically, there's anything wrong with how it's healing. If not, it's probably a matter of time, patience, and good luck.

If the "shooting electrical pins and needles" interfere with your sleep (mine did), they may be willing to give you a sleep aid so you can sleep through it a bit better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:22 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some numbness but nothing like this afternoon where shooting electrical pins and needles were vibrating in the finger. I figure I severed an already injured nerve.

Continued pattern of self-diagnosis rather than relying on medical advice or trusted sources? If you want to have an idea of what's going on, follow the advice of a doctor or seek professional advice. I really think this is just your third jump to conclusions.
posted by mikeh at 6:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

watercarrier, there is no holistic treatment for a potential nerve injury. Go see a doctor.
posted by crankylex at 6:49 AM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I had surgery on my hand and some nerves were cut. Some feeling has come back, and there is a spot that is just numb to anything except pressure. I don't think there are any herbs or such that can fix this.

You say this was "badly managed" and I assume that means your choices to decline the vaccine and decline stitches from the ER, but you shouldn't be embarrassed to go back to the doctor if you've changed your mind. I'm sure they've seen it all. Maybe they are limited in what they can do given the amount of time that has passed, but at least you'll know your options. Trust their training and expertise -- they've dedicated their lives to learning how to help people.
posted by Houstonian at 7:04 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

I hope it is ok to link this. It is a much more severe situation but it is a description of nerve damage suffered by a man who cut off three fingers with a table saw and went through microsurgery. 2 years later he has pins and needles feelings and occasional excruciating pain.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:35 AM on December 27, 2011

Best answer: Funfact: At a recent tissue engineering conference I learned that if/when mammalian nerves generate or regenerate, they can only grow at 1 millimeter per day. Unless you're a baby whale; they're so big that that do grow nerves 5-10x faster. So as Eyebrows McGee notes, even a best case healing scenario for you if you damaged the nerves will take months. But get thee back to a doctor to evaluate how it's healing, and possibly a specialist in hand surgery (they exist!) depending on the GP's recommendation. Because if it's not infected but still not healing up right, you may only be able to do so much after the fact with physical therapy, etc. And if by chance it is infected (doesn't sound like it, but I'm not looking at your hand), obviously the sooner you catch that and treat it, the better the outcome.

P.S.: IANAD, and I don't think your conclusion of nerve damage is either a sure thing OR the only thing that might be going on... so try not to panic but schedule a follow up visit, ok?
posted by deludingmyself at 7:38 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Am having a hard time finding someone who can help with my insurance and I'm out of the country as well. Wish me luck in getting the help I need. Most obliged to you for your assistance.
posted by watercarrier at 8:25 AM on December 27, 2011

Best answer: While I agree with everyone that you should see a doctor (understandably difficult to do when out of the country), here's something that might give you a bit of hope:

When I was 14 or so, I severed about 1/2" of my finger. From one side of the fingernail to the other (across the meat - the nail was left in tact). Basically all the was left attached was the bone and the meat under the nail.

My mom kept telling me to go to the doctor and get stitches. (This was before the age of staples and glue). The thought of stitches freaks me the heck out. Not going to happen.

So I taped it up, sealed it tightly, and moved on. The pain and weird throbbing/pulsating feeling sucked. And lasted a week or so. I didn't regain full feeling for a couple months.

The only thing I have left from it is a scar where it looks like someone chopped the end of my finger off and put a different one on. I have full blood flow through the end of the finger, and I have full feeling at the tip.

So, if the cut was clean and didn't get infected, it might just turn out okay.
posted by krisak at 8:58 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've severed nerves in my finger a few times, most recently about a year ago. They grew back and the zinging sensation was usually the feeling of them growing back. You should go get it checked out but don't be disappointed if they tell you to wait and see.

And next time get the tetanus shot, tetanus is nothing to mess around with.
posted by fshgrl at 9:16 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have just gone through this and eyebrows has it right. About 1mm a month.

If you get full feeling back, it could take more than a year. I severed my entire nerve and had surgery to reattach it - two years later I have some feeling back, but not all. If you want to memail me for really specific info, feel free.

It took me several days to realize how much feeling I lost because the ER did the wrong test.

I heard this tip two weeks late (thanks, mom): If you do anything to your hand, see a hand surgeon immediately. At the ER, ask for one. Do not decide for yourself if you need to. See one. After a week, you likely have to wait for the whole thing to heal before anything can be done. I was even sort of amused by the lack of feeling at first. But that gets old.

It's your hand - don't screw around.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 9:47 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another anecdote.
I once cut my finger to the bone while working in the woods (index, behind the first knuckle).
I duct taped it up and kept working. About a a week later I showed it to a doctor who wandered by. He said I should have had stitches.
The finger from the cut forward lost all feeling. The finger was unable to bend more than 50%.
It took about 6 years for the feeling to be fully restored and 10 before I could bend it all of the way.
If you can avoid what happened to me, do it.
posted by Seamus at 10:10 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for doctor. There may not be much you can practically do on your own to ensure a good outcome, aside from keeping it clean and not moving it too much.

Another anecdote. About 10 years ago I deeply sliced the top of my finger with a knife. I didn't see a doctor. I did most of what it sounds like you're doing, keeping it clean, etc. As it healed I felt coldness, numbness and tingling. It never regained full feeling and still feels weird/unpleasant when I type (which is annoying at work), or if I press on it the wrong way. Your injury *might* heal well on its own but you can't count on it. Please strongly consider consulting a doctor.
posted by asynchronous at 2:38 PM on December 27, 2011

I've cut myself a lot. I worked with sharp tools and would get so focused on the work I'd forget about the hand not holding the tool. I couldn't tell you how many times I've been in to the ER for four or five stitches. My default is when in doubt get the stitches. I learned this by not getting stitches once when I needed them. Cuts on your hands can take forever to heal.

Anyway, I've had some of the symptoms you describe several times but I've never had anything feel cold. I've got a few places where the feeling is still a little muted but most of the feeling has come back or I may just have become used to it. So, as has been mentioned above, you "might" be fine.

When you say the finger is cold do you mean cold to the touch? If so, I'd be even more concerned about that than the numbness.
posted by Carbolic at 11:33 AM on December 28, 2011

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