I think I hit a nerve...
October 8, 2013 1:45 PM   Subscribe

The other night, I think I suffered a Halloween-decorating injury. I was using an unfriendly pair of scissors to cut out silhouettes of bats to stick on my front door; my grip on the scissors hurt, but my room mate (whom I regard as wholly responsible for this) wanted TONS of bats, so I pushed on. Later that night, I realized my index finger was kind of numb along the outside, below the first joint - right where the grip of the scissors pressed against my first knuckle. I decided to go with the "wait and see" cure, only waiting and seeing didn't cure it. It's now been almost 48 hours with no change. What next?

Ok, I know I won't die, and YANMD, but I'd like to know what to expect without going to see my doctor. I see way too much of him as it is. Dr. Google is weirdly silent on the matter - probably because a numb finger is not a symptom of cancer.

The numb area is only on the outside of my forefinger, about the size of a paperclip. There's a weirdly sensitive and very slightly swollen spot just above (toward the nail) the second knuckle, which is where most of my bat-related pain was night before last. The numbness extends down my finger toward the tip from that point.

It doesn't hurt exactly, but when I touch that spot or put pressure on it, I can feel it all the way down through the numb spot and to the tip of my finger. The numb spot, by the way, isn't completely dead. The surface of the skin has a very tiny bit of sensation, but I can't really feel pressure in that spot. There's been very little change since I noticed any of this - maybe the numbness receded a TINY bit back from the nail bed, but that's it.

Extra info, possibly helpful: I didn't cut myself or break the skin in any way - it was just the grip of the scissors, where you put your fingers through, that caused pain. I don't have arthritis, and I don't think I have carpal tunnel. This little numb spot is my sole symptom. I did have neck surgery for a herniated disk about 6 years ago, and at first I thought this might be related to that - but given the sudden onset immediately after painful scissor-wielding, I think it's more likely I just injured my finger.

My amateur diagnosis is that I did something to bruise a nerve, or to create swelling that is somehow impinging on a nerve. This doesn't seem immediately life-threatening, but it does feel completely bizarre, and I don't like it.

Can you actually bruise a nerve by holding a pair of scissors wrong/for too long? If so, what do you do about it? Is rest/ice a decent idea, or might it be more of a heating pad issue? And if I did bruise a nerve, how long can I expect it to take to heal?
posted by kythuen to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's more likely that you have swelling that could be compressing a nerve, from all the scissoring. Have you have gripped something suddenly and then gotten a weird bruise on the underside (palm side) of your finger joint? That really hurts! And then it goes away after a few days.

But I can say after cutting up tons of t-shirt material to make a rag rug that you can indeed cause these symptoms, and they do go away. However, IANAD so if it continues to give you trouble, go see one.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like a BATMERGENCY!!! Every once in a while I get a weird numbness in a finger after doing some idiotic repetitive task. It's usually prep work in the kitchen in a rented vacation house somewhere with crappy knives. My cure for every too-minor-to-find-a-doctor injury is ibuprofen (vitimin-I) and ice...
posted by foodgeek at 2:03 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I remember in high school a friend pinched a nerve in his finger - we were just standing around being bored teenagers on a friday night, I think him and another guy were play fighting and he did a light punch to the shoulder. About 15 minutes later he all of a sudden got dizzy and fainted, we took him to a 24 hr. clinic and they found the pinched nerve. Not sure what treatment he got, but my point is I think if you pinched a nerve in any serious way you'd know by now.

This just sounds like some variation on a callus to me, so I'd give it more time but if it persists go get it checked out.
posted by mannequito at 2:04 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did this to my hand cutting a million paper hearts to string up at my parents' anniversary party. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea. Fortunately, it did get better after a couple days. Obviously if your doesn't clear up soon, a doctor is in order, but just wanted to chime in that this does happen.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:11 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did this by tearing up a bunch of junk mail (think hundreds of pieces) and had a weird numb spot on my thumb where I'd been putting a lot of pressure during said tearing. It went away eventually, but it was there for a few weeks, I think. I wouldn't worry about it unless it lasts for a long time with zero improvement.
posted by bedhead at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, this is a stupid thing that people (me) frequently do to themselves with non-ergonomic tools (like scissors, and cherry pitters, and kitchen knives) and a repetitive "important" task. It will almost certainly get better, though I will say I'm surprised that 48 hours didn't do it. You're way more dedicated to those bats than I've ever been!
Advice: ibuprofen (reduces swelling) and ice. First-aid-wise, heat isn't good for very much; if you ever can't decide what might help, default to ice.
posted by aimedwander at 2:29 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Muscles can get sore and swell, pinching the nerve. Take something for swelling and ice. Elevate your hand. After a few days you can use a heating pad if that seems to make it feel better.

Be careful not to strain the area further in the meantime.

whom I regard as wholly responsible for this

I hope you're kidding. You need to take responsibility for paying attention to how your body is reacting to things, the nerves in your fingers are not hooked into your roommate's head, unless you've really gone overboard with zombie decor.
posted by yohko at 2:35 PM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: That happened to me whenever I was cutting out fabric for a sewing project. Switching to Fiskars Softouch Scissors helped.

My thumb has been numb for a day or so, but not two days. Why not go to the doctor?
posted by homodachi at 3:51 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sounds like the main problem right now is inflammation, which would be best treated with ibuprofen + ice (IANAD but have had many problems with inflammation). The good news is that ibuprofen + ice are unlikely to cause any other problems (as long as you don't ice it long enough to create frostbite). So if that doesn't work and there is no improvement in a couple of days (or if it starts getting dramatically worse) get thee to a physician!
posted by Athanassiel at 5:52 PM on October 8, 2013

I've done that and had it numb for several days, but if you're concerned, see a doctor.
posted by telophase at 5:53 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: give it another day or so...in the meantime take B6 and B12...I've been having some pinched nerve numbness myself and that's what my doctor prescribed...it really helped.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:19 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Many thanks, all - I'm taking basically all the advice - Ibuprofen (vitamin I! <3), icing it, elevating, B6/12, and trying not to use it much.

Yohko, I was totally kidding - with varying degrees of success. :)

I think the numb area is shrinking a bit, so I'm probably going to be fine eventually. I'll update this thread in a few days for anybody else wrestling with a BATMERGENCY.
posted by kythuen at 7:12 AM on October 9, 2013

Response by poster: Just to follow up, I iced and elevated and took a lot of ibuprofen. My finger stayed numb for quite a while, but got less distracting over time. This morning, I noticed that most of the feeling has returned to it - it feels almost exactly like the other finger now!
posted by kythuen at 11:00 AM on December 3, 2013

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