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Persisting Numbness In Tip Of Finger From A Pocket
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By Christian Prellwitz
From Telluride, CO
Oct 19, 2013

I was climbing a problem two days ago that required a relatively hard move off of a three finger pocket. My three fingers were all crammed in there to the point that they were somewhat pinched. After climbing the problem, I noticed that the tip of my right ring finger (mostly on the right side from the last knuckle to the top) was a bit numb feeling. I figured it would go away relatively soon as often happens. However, 48 hours later, the numbness is still there. I would describe it as sort of a 'pins and needles' type feeling.

There is no discoloration of the skin (to suggest blood loss), no loss of dexterity or strength or other identifiable markers. Other than the described feeling.

My first thought is that I simply impinged the nerve in some way and that it will take a little bit of time to recover sensation.

I'm wondering-- Has anybody had an experience like this? Am I doing any damage by climbing on it with it in this state? Is there anything I can do to speed up the recovery time?

Any insight or info is greatly appreciated. Thanks!


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By berl
From Oregon
Oct 19, 2013

I've had a similar problem in a finger from hanging out on a fingerlock too long. The doc said it can take months to for the nerves to be reestablished if they've been damaged, and it did take a few months to have full feeling back. Not super fast, but hey- at least peripheral nerves regenerate.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Oct 19, 2013
At the BRC

Christian Prellwitz wrote:
I was climbing a problem two days ago that required a relatively hard move off of a three finger pocket. My three fingers were all crammed in there to the point that they were somewhat pinched. After climbing the problem, I noticed that the tip of my right ring finger (mostly on the right side from the last knuckle to the top) was a bit numb feeling. I figured it would go away relatively soon as often happens. However, 48 hours later, the numbness is still there. I would describe it as sort of a 'pins and needles' type feeling. There is no discoloration of the skin (to suggest blood loss), no loss of dexterity or strength or other identifiable markers. Other than the described feeling. My first thought is that I simply impinged the nerve in some way and that it will take a little bit of time to recover sensation. I'm wondering-- Has anybody had an experience like this? Am I doing any damage by climbing on it with it in this state? Is there anything I can do to speed up the recovery time? Any insight or info is greatly appreciated. Thanks!


Rabies. A textbook presentation.


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By Rohan de Launey
From South Lake Tahoe
Oct 19, 2013
Luther Spires

I lost feeling in the right ring finger from hard labor for a couple weeks. Took about a month to come all the way back, the pins and needles feeling sucks but you will regain sensation. This was right before I started experiencing elbow issues due to climbing and I would recommend dialing it back for a few and starting up a preventative exercise regimen because I did not and it resulted in months of down time in the long run..(due to other nerve and muscular issues in the elbow and shoulder which may or may not be related, tho my thinkin is it was)


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By Christian Prellwitz
From Telluride, CO
Oct 19, 2013

Hey guys, thanks for the responses.

Bert, I would say what I'm experiencing is most similar to what you described. I've felt similar things from finger locks but they've always gone away fairly quickly. This one is just surprising with its persistence though my assumption was that I had impinged/damaged the peripheral nerves. Did you continue to climb while it was healing? Did the Doc okay that? I haven't climbed since then but it doesn't hurt when I climb at all. Obviously I would avoid pockets and/or finger locks on that finger until it is healed.

And Rohan, while I do know of the associations between elbow and shoulder issues and nerve impingement, this was definitely an acute response and not related to either of those. But thanks for the heads up.

Mark, I'll be sure to get my rabies shot immediately. :)


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Oct 19, 2013
At the BRC

Christian Prellwitz wrote:
Hey guys, thanks for the responses. Bert, I would say what I'm experiencing is most similar to what you described. I've felt similar things from finger locks but they've always gone away fairly quickly. This one is just surprising with its persistence though my assumption was that I had impinged/damaged the peripheral nerves. Did you continue to climb while it was healing? Did the Doc okay that? I haven't climbed since then but it doesn't hurt when I climb at all. Obviously I would avoid pockets and/or finger locks on that finger until it is healed. And Rohan, while I do know of the associations between elbow and shoulder issues and nerve impingement, this was definitely an acute response and not related to either of those. But thanks for the heads up. Mark, I'll be sure to get my rabies shot immediately. :)


Well actually, you need a shot of rabies immune globulin, half of which is supposed to be infiltrated around the site of injury. This may be somewhat excruciating. Then 5 shots, which don't hurt that much but which will set you back a few thousand dollars. But can't be too careful, you know!

On the other hand, digital nerves run along both sides of each finger. It is pretty easy to pinch them in a pocket or a jam. This causes injury to the nerve itself, but the nerve sheath remains intact and usually the nerve will regrow normally along this sheath. It takes a long time, the nerve regrows 2mm/day IIRC.

I don't see any causative connection between a digital nerve injury and elbow problems, so I wonder if Rohan's issues were truly related.

You could re-injure the nerve while it is healing, I suppose. Probably wise to avoid that. But most climbing moves shouldn't pose much risk.

I'd go for it, but I'm not too bright. Ask anyone.


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By Christian Prellwitz
From Telluride, CO
Oct 19, 2013

Isn't rabies 100% fatal by the time you're experiencing symptoms? So, in that case I'm screwed. :)

But, seriously thanks for your reply. It's good to hear some confirmation on what I expected. Perhaps Rohan is experiencing more of a sciatica type thing. But now I'm mostly talking out my ass.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Oct 19, 2013
At the BRC

Christian Prellwitz wrote:
Isn't rabies 100% fatal by the time you're experiencing symptoms? So, in that case I'm screwed. :)


Good point. But there have been a few survivors, although the treatment is not a lot of fun.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_protocol


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By Jeff J
From Bozeman
Oct 19, 2013

I have a buddy that had the same issue,
He had a 1 finger of off an crystal pocket, same thing numb finger.
It lasted almost 6 months before the feeling cam back to normal.


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By Lee Green
Oct 21, 2013

Mark E Dixon wrote:
...It takes a long time, the nerve regrows 2mm/day IIRC...


Yup - the catch is that if the nerve was dinged bad enough, it first undergoes "Wallerian degeneration". That means those nerve fibers die all the way back to the spine, then grow out anew. So it's not growing the 10-20mm from the knuckle to the tip at 2mm/d (more like 1mm/d in geezers my age), but the 300+mm from the spine. So don't be surprised if it takes months :-(


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By Rohan de Launey
From South Lake Tahoe
Oct 23, 2013
Luther Spires

What I meant above without any anatomical medical jargon was.. although your finger is numb you may have compressed the nerve at the elbow where it is most susceptible to compression/damage. Presenting as a climber who injured the nerve while doing a strenuous 3 finger pull makes it even more likely as the common flexor tendon may have been slightly damaged or pulled on in a manner which caused it to irritate the ulnar nerve as it passes thru the cubital tunnel in the elbow (right under the common flexor tendon an muscles which flex your fingers!) Numbness in the ring finger is classic symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome. If it persists see a doc! There are many options starting with RICE, PT, and ending with surgery.. Good luck!


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By nicelegs
From Denver
Oct 23, 2013

As a child I shouldn't have been allowed near knives. I stabbed my finger with a fillet knife deep enough that I could see the blood spurt with the heartbeat. This caused my finger to be numb to some sensations (not all) for about a year.

At the tender age of 21, I thought it would be a good idea to cut the lugs off a pair of Kaukulator Dru's with a breadknife and slipped. I saw my joint on that one. I again watched blood pulse with the heartbeat. It was very numb for a while except right at the scar, that was extremely painful in finger locks. Most of the pain went away in time but now, 14 years later there is still an area right near the scar that is a little numb. I doubt it'll ever fully be normal (don't say it).

I smashed one finger tip open loading a ping pong table into a truck. I smashed another finger tip open reracking a dumbell. Both have numb spots right over the scar.

And yes, I've gotten numb fingers from some cracks too, but never longer than a week or two. Numb spots on the back of my hands occasionally too.

At the end of the day, I would rather deal with numb spots rather than pain. If given the choice between the two.


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By ASH0702
Dec 24, 2013

I have a question... if anyone out there has an answer.. my middle finger on the left side is completely numb all the way up to my knuckle. I did nothing to my finger I didn't slam it into a door or anything. I do have nerve damage in my neck and shoulder on that side but have for years. I also have herniated disks in my neck and back.. but I am curious as to why this could be happening because its only on one side of my finger and has been like this for about four days now any ideas would be awesome?? thanks!!


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