Diagnose my malady, please

Please consider doing one of the Service Projects for this year if you missed yesterday's post!

So last night I started feeling an ache in my left pinky. And first it felt like my anxiety ache, but I did a full system check and had nothing to be anxious about (I was at book club drinking wine and talking about a fun project for a friend that I'll let you guys in one in a few weeks when I'm doing it). I did a little yoga breathing and forgot about it for about ten minutes, but then noticed the pain was still there and getting worse.

This morning, the pain is still there. Let me describe it, and then you can tell me what's wrong with me.

It feels like pain in the bone, but also in the soft tissue and skin of my pinky. It starts right about from the last knuckle (the one at the end of my finger) and extends about two inches down into my hand on that side. My other fingers are fine. It's a sharp, constant ache, not hot, but kind of round and smooth, if that makes any sense. When I've touched that finger with cold water it's like having a nerve drilled.

I should also mention that the night before I got chicken pox when I was 12 I got a backache that then spread to my entire body and felt exactly the same –skin pain and sensitivity to touch and cold. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning covered in pox. Since then, every 9-15 months I get an all-over body ache and sensitivity that goes away the next morning. This feels like that, only way more painful and concentrated in my left pinky.

So what's wrong with me? Knowing my history of carrying emotional stuff in my body part of me wonders if this is fear of the future. Another part of me thinks I'm just getting arthritis like all the women in my family have (it's the Scandinavian heritage, I think).

Do you think this is something I can cure by eating a ton of turkey and green bean casserole on Thursday?

50 thoughts on “Diagnose my malady, please”

  1. Poor Moxie! Mayhaps you have been crooking your finger ever so ladylike as you lift beverages to your lips? Seriously, I’m sure it’s just occupational, you might have been doing something repetitive without realising you were straining your fingers.You often say you have ‘nervous’ fingers in that you get pain in your hands when you are stressed, maybe you are subconsciously stressed now! working too hard! why don’t you buy some arnica gel and massage it in, try and really warm up your hands. Oil with cinnamon and thyme in it can help your circulation too and warm you up. If it’s too sore to touch ignore my suggestion! I hope you will feel better and figure out what it is BEFORE your pinkie falls off!

  2. oops just read your post more slowly and you don’t seem to be too stressed, and anyway I’m sure you would know the difference. Perhaps you should ignore all my comments! It’s funny how pain in the smallest parts of our bodies is often the worst. It really sounds horrible.

  3. IANAD. In my family this would probably be a sign of an ear infection or something bizzah like that – my daughter is the Queen of Referred Pain.BTW, I don’t think this is it (odd location and all) but since it reminds you so strongly of your chicken pox experience, are you familiar with the symptoms of shingles? It’s good to know, because if you catch it really quick, they can dramatically decrease the duration and agony.
    Obviously if the pain worsens, spreads, doesn’t go away, or just plain worries you, contact your doctor!
    Feel better soon.

  4. If you had chicken pox as a child, you can get body pain as an adult which is Shingles – serious pain with a rash. To me it felt like bone-deep pain in one part of my upper back. My Mom has had it on her abdomen. “The virus responsible for these conditions is called the Varicella zoster virus (VZV). After an individual has chickenpox, this virus lives in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body.” This is very common even though it usually affects people over 60.I have had pain in my thumb and a couple of finger knuckles and wrists which may be arthritis (I’m in my early 40’s). My Dr. took Xrays but couldn’t find anything specific from the Xrays. I do not have the cold sensitivity that you have, but I do have Scandinavian heritage. Whatever it is, I hope you can get some pain treatment, Moxie. Take good care of yourself.

  5. I don’t think it’s shingles, because I never have a rash, and it doesn’t follow the pattern of going on half my body. And it only ever lasts 12-24 hours, and goes away on its own, except for this pinky thing.Could it be some different, mutated version of shingles?

  6. So sorry you’re hurting! I’ve had recurring pain in knuckles that my yoga teacher resolved with graduated ligament stretches. Easy, free, and makes the pain go away. My regular doc gave me a cortisone shot that was horrible and I’ll never do that again. More yoga, please!The stretches are: go to a doorway or open space of wall and lay your hand flat on it, fingers pointing up, shoulder-height, arm straight. Your fingers should be flat, but if the ligaments are tight (which they often are from carrying heavy kids or typing a lot, which you probably do a lot), it’s hard to do at first. Just slide your hand up the wall a bit or wherever the tightness lightens up, and try and hold the position for 20 seconds. As you adjust to one stretch, try and slide your hand to a new spot on the wall (or doorway, or wherever you chose to try this) to a harder spot.
    Does this make sense at all? It’s almost like a hamstring stretch – if you get that arm loosened up, it makes life a lot more comfortable in a lot of other, seemingly unrelated ways. Let me know if my explanation is too hard to understand.

  7. The first thing that I though of was Lyme disease. Random, excruicating joint pain was how both my father and sister presented with the illness. Neither of them devoloped a rash. The joints targeted seemed to be joints that already had some minor damage to them. My dad’s in his knee, my sister’s in her wrist and finger joints.The other thing that I was thinking was more of an occupational injury. You have made a lot of changes in your life, has that resulted in using that hand more frequently, or in different ways? The cold sensitivity sounds like either an inflamed or pinched nerve.

  8. I hope this doesn’t sound too hokey but get yourself into a deep meditation and go inside your pinky and talk to it…ask it what’s wrong.If the pain doesn’t go away in x amount of days (you specify what number x equals) have it checked out.

  9. Shingles is crazy, and can present in a hundred different ways, which makes it really difficult to diagnose quickly enough to spare you from excuciating pain…Keep an eye out for any sort of rash…my mother developed it on her lower back, and described it almost like a heat rash localized around her spine. My uncle never had any kind of rash, but lost hearing in one of his ears from it (although I understand this is extremely rare).
    You are so self aware that I’m sure you’d catch any of these symptoms, I just wanted to chime in and say continue to listen to your gut about it all.
    Hope it’s nothing and goes away soon!

  10. I first thought of ulnar nerve entrapment but I guess that is because I used to work in a PT/OT clinic.Have you been propping your elbow on a hard surface a lot recently? Especially when sitting in front of a computer?

  11. I was also going to say shingles.. but you could be just in need of a really good massage, that will relax you and then hopefully the nerve pain would go away… I think turkey and pumpkin pie will help a LOT!

  12. I’m sorry to hear that you’re in pain but I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one! It’s such a weird, random pain and I never could explain exactly what it feels like. And it only happens in my left pinky! I’ve never seen the doctor about it because it only happens a few times a year and never lasts more than a day or two.

  13. also if you have any sort of other skin condition (i.e. psoriasis or eczema) it could be an arthritis.. my husband is 29 and has psoriatic arthritis, but you can see the damage to his fingers.. and a lot of what he describes seems similar, but it might be worth it to go to a rheumatologist to get a better diagnosis.

  14. Hmm – if it seems to get at all swollen or red, I’d see a doctor sooner rather than later, as it could be some sort of an infection. Otherwise, if it were me I’d probably try doing some stretching of the area, trying to notice if there’s anything I’m doing that could be causing repetitive strain to it, and if it’s not better after a week or two or gets worse definitely see the doctor. Could be something as simple as a muscle spasm if you managed to jam or strain the finger somehow without realizing it, and the muscles are now tightening up to try to protect and stabalize the joint, or it could be something that will actually need treatment.

  15. Ok, this is so weird, but a friend of mine just had something very similar happen, and it turned out to be a cyst that ruptured and broke her finger (from the force of the rupturing). I’m not even kidding.

  16. Goodness! I have no idea. But I like Jessica’s idea of asking the pinky what is wrong.I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression, “I’d give my left pinky for that!” Is it possible that you somehow, subconsciously, bargained away your left pinky?

  17. Hmmmm, it sure sounds a lot like a tendon inflammation to me. Particularly if the shape of the pain isn’t malleable. When I’ve had a bad tendinitis, the pain is very still and constant and cold is very upsetting. If that’s the case, rest, gentle heat, and ibuprofen should all be useful, as would targetted massage by a PT.It could also be shingles, which would be a bummer…but when I had that, there was a very specific and nasty nerve zing to the pain if you touched it. (Aside: I got chicken pox at 2 1/2, when my baby sister was 1 week old–my mom got shingles across her breast while nursing, can you imagine?)

  18. Moxie–I am with Amy on Ulnar Nerve–there is a fantastic Feldenkrais Physical Therapy clinic in the Gramercy area that might give you the relaxation/mind-body work you enjoy while giving you a movement diagnosis and checking up the kinetic and neurologic chain to make sure it’s not just down in your pinky.
    At home you may try a towel under your elbow as you type or take a break from typing and use some dictaphone software if you can.
    These are just two cents from a PT STUDENT — not yet liscenced.
    Feel better . . . .

  19. @hush – thanks for making me laugh out loud. Your post got me thinking (oh no!) about my aunt…She was stuck in her marriage and wanted out but couldn’t see a way because she had gone straight from high-school to being a SAHM and hadn’t worked in the the 30+ years they’d been married. He cheated on her for years (basically had two lives/families.) The marriage was definitely oppressive and sad, but he continued to provide and be a “good” husband. She kept saying that she wished that there was a way out where she didn’t have to leave him, didn’t have to get divorced, etc. Long story short, we think she inadvertantly wished her husband to death…he got cancer and was gone withing months. Although she was sad, I think part of her was relieved. The marriage was over and she was free to live her life as she wanted. Well, it’s been two years and if you ask her now, she would give anything to be where she was before he died. If she thought her life was bad before, it’s turned to total shit now. I won’t go into the details, but here’s my point – don’t ever “give your left pinky” for anything. It’s the whole careful what you wish for or you just might get it thing.Moxie, I hope your finger hurts because you’ve been typing away with renewed enthusiasm because your burlesque dance class has released some passion you never knew you had or because the holidays are making you realize what a lucky person you are or because…well, you get the point. I just hope you’re not hurting because you’ve bargained away your pinky.

  20. Just a WAG – you said you’ve been knitting a bunch lately, is this the pinky you wind your yarn around? Or use to balance your needles?And I think the correct remedy for this type of injury is liberal application of pie. Any type will do.

  21. It might be a symptom of carpal-tunnel related nerve problems. You’ve been writing a lot more lately, right, because of your freelancing? So maybe your pinky’s stressed out due to repetitive motion on your keyboard. It sounds similar to how my husband’s hands get sometimes–he is always pounding away on his laptop keyboard and sometimes his fingers get all nervy and weird. Might try to massage it–the arnica cream (or arnica pills like Traumeel) is a good idea–it’s an anti-inflammatory.Of course pumpkin pie might also do the trick.

  22. Speaking as a qualified computer programmer (and knitter), my guesses would lean towards repetitive stress (typing in a new configuration at home?, knitting 3 baby sweaters on a deadline?) or shingles. Or you could work the mind-body angle and it’s your body telling you to slow down, take a breather. If it’s any of these three, pie, turkey and board games with your kids would all probably help.

  23. Awhile back, I was having dizzy spells all the time. My doctor said that the thing with these mysterious ailments is that even he will probably not be able to figure it out, and it will go away on its own. Which really, that’s the best scenario, anyway. If you go to a doctor, they’ll do a bunch of blood work and then call you in a couple of weeks. It’s the best way to see if it’s Lyme disease, or something else. If it just started hurting recently and you don’t have any other symptoms, just give it a couple of weeks before you go to a doctor. See if it goes away on its own, and save a few bucks.

  24. that is the area of the ulnar nerve distribution… so pay attention to that; Google it and see if anything rings true for you.***from my own personal experience- i had a weird weird viral thing happen to me this time last year. undiagnosible. the MD told me to get sleep!!!! as if!!!!
    i think you said you haven’t been sleeping as much or as well lately?

  25. repetitive stress,plus maybe shingles,
    or, maybe… you say your hands get cold (was that you?), do you get reynaud’s phenomenon? It sounds a bit like reynaud’s (tingling, cold, painful) crossing with the repetetive strain, to me.
    My mom has had a lot of inflamed nerve issues lately (arthritis plus compressed disk), and the medication for shingles has been a godsend to her – it deinitely reduced the inflammatory nerve jangle and weakness in her leg (from the compressed/inflamed nerve). So, it might be worth seeing a physiologist/PT/OT type.
    It’s very easy to inflame either nerve or connective tissue in the joints below pinkies and thumbs with excessive typing, typing at higher speed, typing without warming up, typing for too long without a break, typing while over-caffienated, typing while excited about what you’re doing, typing fast to get done before the kids wake up, etc. I tend to injure my thumbs most, pinkies rarely. But my pinkies are also weak, so I rely on them less than I do my thumbs (IIRC, the whole pinkie-in-air thing is an indication of weakness on that side of the hand – hence why ladies of leasure would have pinkie curl while drinking tea – weak hands from doing no work).
    Anyway, that’s my call. But hey, IANAD! (I still prescribe lots of turkey and pie.)

  26. hmmm, hadn’t thought of reynaud’s (which I have moderately in my hands and feet), but I would guess probably not as there’s an obvious visual manifestation that goes along with it…though the weird localization would certainly fit. For me, the reynaud’s sensation is more like a really unpleasant version of local anesthesia wearing off. Anyway, unless your pinky looks bloodless and pale, possibly with a bluish nailbed and with a clear line of color demarcation with the rest of your hand, you’re probably not having a reynaud’s capillary spasm. Though if you do suspect that, and gentle warming doesn’t resolve it, or it’s lasted longer than a short space, you should definitely get it checked out. FWIW, yoga seems to help greatly as does just keeping warm.

  27. What is it with the Scandinavian heritage and arthritis anyway? I have osteoarthritis in my spine starting at my neck and going all the way to the tail bone. I’m a load of fun when it gets cold. Fortunately I live in a warm climate!By the way, pretty much anything can be made better with turkey and green-bean casserole; pumpkin pie doesn’t hurt either.
    Um, and I would seriously contemplate Hush’s theory.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  28. So far, Hush’s theory sounds the best to me. A few days ago I did say I’d give my left pinky *toe* for something, but maybe my body misheard.Anyway, the pain is much less now, and feels mostly in the bone, and feels like I slammed my pinky in a door yesterday.
    FWIW, I don’t feel anything at all in the tendons or muscles of the pinky. It’s really the bone and skin. Still no skin change or rash.

  29. I’m going with repetitive stress… try changing the way you hold your yarn, or switch your mouse to the other hand, or something that’s a real change. See if it gets better.If it’s troubling you though, go ask about the shingles. I hadn’t thought about that. But I would also think some sort of autoimmune/inflammatory thing. See an endocrinologist for a work up. Random joint pains like that, especially in women in their 30s/40s can be a sign of autoimmune troubles.

  30. Arthritis? Or there is a similar problem to carpal tunnel only it’s the outside area instead of the thumb and inner wrist area. A friend recently had surgery. I’m sorry i can’t remember the name (I just had my “beginning of the holidays”cocktail, so that might be contributing. ­čÖé )

  31. No, the problem is that I haven’t had time to knit in months and months! I mean, that’s not the problem with my pinky. That’s the problem with not knitting. And I mouse with my right hand.Maybe it’s from disuse…

  32. It’s fun to read through the various diagnoses. My guess would be a misalignment in your upper back or a pinched nerve. Each finger has a nerve link straight to a particular vertebra. I have one disc that’s prone to slipping a teeny bit out of place, and the first signal my body sends is a pain in one particular finger that sounds very similar to yours.

  33. Ooops. My first sentence was missing the second part:It’s fun to read through the various diagnoses because we all have different theories, probably based on what we have experienced ourselves.

  34. Okay, I’m going to delurk, as well… and add an idea that is also coming from my personal experience. The type of pain you describe, Moxie, sounds a lot like chronic pain I have in my right big toe (and occasionally little toes, too). It’s sharp at times, but also constant in that slammed-in-the-door kind of way… I describe it like throbbing pain that doesn’t actually throb (which would imply abating at regular intervals) – it’s just *there*. My pain turns out to be related to the sciatic nerve, which is being pinched or irritated way up in my hip. The pain in my hip, though, is quite dull and numb – often barely noticeable. Is it possible that you have a repetitive stress injury somewhere in your shoulder, upper back, or neck area, that is presenting with pain in your pinky?

  35. I get a sore pinky when I knit (I know, what a wimp, huh?)…but it also gets irritated from the yarn running over it. (double wimp). It took me a while to make the connection between the pinky and the knitting. So maybe if you knit?

  36. I’m a violinist here, and often we musicians suffer from repetitive stress injuries in our hands and forearms that can be traced to shoulder/neck tension. I’d do a personal scan further up your arm, it may be that you have a little knot somewhere up there that’s giving you trouble.

  37. Hello my friend, thanks for share this information, i think that your problem is in your mind, yo should go to the doctor to know exactly what do you have. regards….

  38. Thanks! Very helpful information. Here’s a great tip from women who did it and worked too: Exercise, eat healthy, and take a long hot bath or shower. Also, write in your journal to relieve stress – These are one of the many effective ways to relieve PMS problems. If this does not work, visit my site to have great relief.

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  40. Interesting article, I always follow this blog work and I think you’ve enough knowledge share more ideas through the text. By the way, I always wonder to my self the same question… what’s wrong with us?

  41. irrespective of the type of occupational injury you suffer, where they are due to a failure by your employer to implement health and safety regulations, and provide adequate protection for his employees, victims of occupational injuries are entitled to make an occupational injury compensation claim..

  42. Thank goodness for eltcnroeic keyboards. If you want to learn typing now it is much easier today than it was when I went to school. All we had then were the mechanical typewriters. For some reason they put some of the most common letters under the weaker fingers so if you had to type pages with lots of A’s and S’s your little finger and ring finger would start feeling sore and tired pretty soon. Putting the seldom used J under one of the strongest fingers defies belief.Wal Heinrich recently posted..

  43. Hello Jan,Just reading this has redenmid me of a lesson I had a couple of years ago which has taken me from 4 WPM to 10 [ little ] WPM !Seriously, you’ve inspired me Thankyou, I’ll work on this.CheersHarryHarry Lynn recently posted..

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