Feel Better Blog
Ways to help you feel better every day: mind, body and spirit!
You ever wake up or during/after an activity, your fingers, hands, toes or feet are feeling a little numb? This can be a scary situation if it has ever happened to you. In both the beginning of my long distance running days (feet) and in my massage career (hands), I've had cases where numbness has crept up. You can still function, and it may only be periodic, but something does not feel right. And you are correct. Your nerves are being pinched somehow. I encourage you to do something to fix the situation before things worsen.
Nerves are not anything to mess with as they take a very long time to repair if damaged severely, and don't always recover to be 'like it used to feel.' Medically, if you have diabetes or chronic edema or lymphedema, you should seek treatment from your doctor if you feel ongoing numbness in your hands or feet. Furthermore, if you have suffered a trauma, injury or fall, I also suggest you take a visit to the ER or an orthopedic urgent care to make sure you are getting quick treatment to assess the situation.
But what if it just shows up? And isn't going away? I encourage you to trust in the signals your body is giving you. Get the pain looked at by someone that can start to evaluate what part of the pathway your nerve is being pinched off. Pain management typically focuses on relieving the pain which can often entail medication or injections. Do those help with the pain? Often yes. Will they help you move past the flare up? Often yes. Are they treating the underlying root cause? No. My experience working in rehabilitative care suggest that if you want to do treat the underlying cause, seek treatment where soft tissue or nerve compression and damage at the spine can be ruled out. A massage therapist or manual therapist trained in deep tissue, trigger point, or medical massage can help you rule out soft tissue impingement. A good chiropractor, physical therapist, or orthopedic specialist can be the way to go to rule out damage or compression at the spine or if they are trained with good manual skills, the soft tissue as well. My own personal experience is that very few have the hands on experience to do both soft tissue and spine health well.
What is the cost of these and how do you choose what works best for your situation? You can start by investing hundreds and thousands of dollars in injections, imaging, and tests to learn exactly where the nerve(s) is/are being compromised. And then be sent to ongoing treatment which is usually medically based - physical or occupational therapy, surgical intervention. Those can be helpful, but if you are not addressing the soft tissue, you are leaving the body in a position to want to go back to the way it was...in pain. Another option is you can find a quality massage therapist who can spend a few sessions working out trigger points and tender areas to see if the soft tissue is bound up and causing the pinching off of the nerve. If that does not work, then go onto more expensive diagnosis.
I go back to my marathon training as an example where the medical community failed me. I was experiencing periodic numbness in my feet and pain in my knee. A few trips to the chiropractor led to only slightly feeling better. A visit to the orthopedist gave me the diagnosis of piriformis syndrome which is the pinching off of some of the nerves in the leg by a muscle in your hip. He gave me stretches and exercises to do. That helped somewhat. It wasn't until I decided to try a massage after going to a yoga class that I got much relief. The massage therapist worked out my hips and did lots of stretching afterward. How come none of these specialists told me about getting a massage? Ultimately I believe they were doing their best and it was because they did not know about the hands on treatment and how trigger point pain patterns can develop.
My friend Kyle has come to me for over a year. He had tingling in his foot and had a fairly complex medical history. After a few massages, the numbness all but disappeared. Another friend Kevin started coming in for regular sessions and shared that he had tingling in his hands. The day after his second session to see me, he came up to me all excited that the numbness had subsided. Even though the numbness has returned periodically, the more we work on, and that he performs regular self care massage at home, the better he has felt.
As for my own hands? Well, that is still an ongoing issue I have. I keep trying to adjust the work I do and the posture I keep so that my hands do not feel achy or numb. The regular weekly deep tissue and trigger point massage I've been getting has mostly eliminated the recurrence of my problem. The massage therapists I see work on my entire arm, shoulder, neck and upper back so that each area is treated together, not in isolation. The nerves for my hands travel through or can be effected by all those areas. I have also learned more things I can do to regularly keep things in shape so the numbness lessens.
Are you getting the help you need for the numbness in your hands or feet? I hope after reading this you have more options to consider and can make the right choice for you on where to start.
If you are ever in doubt on where to begin, always consider the opinion of your doctor or physician first. That being said, you know your body, what it does and how it feels more than anyone can ever tell you. Listen to its signals and take action and ask questions when it tells you. It's the only vehicle you'll ever be able to live in to experience this life that is uniquely yours. I encourage you to find ways to feel better each and every day.
With love and light,
Massage Therapist, Health Coach, Personal Development junkie.
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