By Tom Fontana, MSPT
It’s not too early to start thinking about Valentine’s Day and, for some reason, I seem to gravitate to the dark, unfulfilling side of the day (see “How To Prevent A Broken Heart”).
This year we answer the question of what could be worse than a crush not returning your affection. Well, if it’s a bad feeling with a crush, clearly a double crush would be twice as bad! Beyond that truism, I can’t speak to dealing emotionally with that (that’s a whole other brand of therapy 😊…) but can talk about the physical “double crush” phenomenon that’s pertinent to physical therapy.
Patients who experience unpleasant nerve symptoms (usually numbness or pins and needles) may be correct in surmising the source of their problem (e.g., carpal tunnel or a spinal issue). However, in other instances, patients have not only one area putting pressure (crush) on their nerve but two (double crush–though there’s no law that it has to stop at two!) so they have areas that are left untreated/addressed and may explain why their attempts at solving their problem aren’t working.
As an example, let’s say you experience numbness in your thumb and index finger. Your brain is telling you that there is a problem in your finger. Most of the time our nervous system is spot on with identifying the location of a problem but other times there’s a fault in the wiring delivering the message. Our nerve signals sometimes work like the game of “telephone.”
The nerve endings in your finger send a signal toward the brain that all is well saying “I am good!” Unfortunately, at the wrist the Median nerve gets compressed and garbles the signal to “I am God!” When the signal gets to the nerve entering the neck, a second compression (double crush) garbles the signal again to “I am a Dog!” But, instead of “good/God/dog” it’s “good/tingly/numb.” When this reaches the brain, it’s really confused and thinks those fingers are really in bad shape. While the brain is good at determining there is a problem, it’s not good at differentiating between a true signal or one that has been altered along the way and, if so, where.
If you have tingling, burning or numbness that persists despite your best efforts to rid yourself of it (including the absolute best advice the internet can offer!) visit your doctor or come in for an evaluation or free screen.