Why Are My Thumb and First Finger Going Numb?

I used to race motorcycles back in the early 1990’s.  It was a sport called motocross.  I loved it.  It was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had.

It was pure adrenaline.  Imagine jumping 25 feet in the air and having to time the landing just right to pull it off.  Imagine 20 guys racing towards the first turn knowing how important it is to get a quick lead at the beginning of the race.

It was like a stampede of mad cows but instead of 4 legs and a tail, we all had 250 cc engines on 2 wheels.  Those 2 stroke motorcycles were like raging bulls with power that is hard to explain for someone who has never been on one.  It was really something else.

During that part of my life, I was stationed on Guam while in the United States Air Force.  It was my dream to get out of the Air Force and become a professional motorcycle racer.

I wanted to go from motocross into a sport called Supercross and be like my heroes Jeremy McGrath and Damon Bradshaw.

The only problem was that I had a lot of crashes, broken bones and injuries.  It goes with the territory of being young and an adrenaline junky.  When you are young, you think you’re invincible and nothing will ever harm you.

My last crash was my most severe and caused injuries that caused me to have to quit racing and leave the sport altogether.

In 1993, I was showing off with a friend that I raced with doing long jumps and “whipping” my motorcycle.  There were some large trucks at the track with huge tires and young spectators urging us to go bigger and better.

I did a jump that no one else would do called a triple jump and I’m sure that I whipped my motorcycle really hard.  If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well.  It’s just my personality.

But, the facts are that I don’t remember what I did, because I don’t remember anything about that crash.

The results of that crash was that it was almost fatal with injuries and consequences that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.  I had multiple fractures and a traumatic brain injury.

What is a C5 Fracture?

One of the bones that I fractured was in my neck.  Yes, I broke my neck.  They missed it at the emergency room and found it almost a week later.  I fractured my C5 vertebrae which is in the mid-cervical spine.

It is really hard to actually fracture a bone in the neck.  We see all of the action movies with snapping of necks and sudden death but vertebra in the spine are very strong.  It’s not easy to break one.

While it’s hard to fracture or “break” a bone in the spine, once a bone in the spine gets fractured, it is easy to become displaced or dislocated which is a major problem when you consider all of the motion involved in the cervical spine.

Every time you look up or down, turn your head side to side, look to see if a car is coming from the left or the right, or pretty much do anything at all, your 7 vertebra in your neck move in concert.  There is torque on every level that can easily cause a broken fragment to displace and sever a nerve.

It takes my breath away when I think about it because I went with an unstable broken C5 vertebra for almost a week!  I could have become paralyzed from the neck down just as easily as you take your next breath.  It was a seriously close call.

What Causes Numbness in the Thumb?

Now to the reason why I’m writing this article:  About 8 years ago, I started having horrible pain and numbness in my left arm, thumb and first finger.  I was waking up in the middle of the night with my arm completely numb.

I couldn’t lay on my left side.  The bone in my upper arm (the humerus) hurt so bad I could hardly stand it.  I remember rubbing my arm and trying to rub out the pain from my upper arm.  It felt like the pain was inside of the bone.

Everyone describes their pain differently.  I’ve worked with thousands of patients and hundreds of those had C5-C6 disc problems and nerve impingement.  It’s actually rare for someone to describe their pain the same as my pain was, but that is how my pain felt.

I also had pain that felt like pins and needles and numbness in my left thumb and first finger.  I immediately knew what the problem was because of the injury to my C5 vertebrae and my experience in treating so many cervical spine (neck) patients through the years.

Back in the early 90’s when I hurt my neck, the Drs. told me that I would develop arthritis and degenerative disc disease in my neck (from my injury) as I got older.  I didn’t believe them or really even care.  Remember, I was young and invincible.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

A common question that patients ask me is, “How did I get this problem?”  Some people will develop arthritis or a pinched nerve as a result of degeneration to their spine from an old injury.

Others will develop arthritis from chronic spinal misalignment that leads to inflammation and tissue breakdown over time.  Some people will have an old “whiplash” injury that created inflammation leading to degenerative disc disease.

Some people will tear the disc and develop a bulge or herniation (a herniated or slipped disc) that can leak jelly (the nucleus pulposis) out onto the spinal nerves or the spinal cord.

The pressure on the nerve can cause different pain sensations such as tingling, burning, numbness, or other types of pain.  Ultimately, the pain can be unbearable for some and lead to conditions such as muscular atrophy causing weakness, decreased grip strength, or permanent nerve damage.

Thankfully, I have what I believe is the best clinic in the world for the natural and non-invasive treatment of severe neck and low back pain created by degenerative disc disease.

I put myself into my own treatment program and thank God it worked.  I got relief after the first 4-5 treatments.  I’ll admit that I got on my mountain bike after the 4th or 5th treatment on a beautiful spring day and that 8 miles into the Ozark National Forest, my arm started going numb during my ride.

How Long Does it Take for a Broken Bone to Heal?

A fractured bone is usually healed within 4-6 weeks.  My fractured C5 vertebrae was healed within 4-6 weeks of the injury all the way back in 1993.  What many people don’t consider is that when there is a trauma, there is inflammation that can lead to breakdown of tissues in years to come.

The pain I felt in my arm and hand was from the injury to the soft tissues from over 30 years ago.  So, in a way, I was dealing with a new injury because I was working on my C5-C6 spinal disc that had broken down in the years since my accident.

A soft tissue injury such as the discs can take up to a couple of years to heal.  Thankfully, pain relief with my treatments is usually fast but the tissues undergo 4 phases of tissue repair and those phases of tissue repair and strengthening take time and there are no short cuts to that process.

I always tell my patients that it takes time for the body to heal and repair and that there are no short cuts to getting well.  Here I was 8 miles into the woods riding like I had no problems at all but the reality is that I was trying to recover from a serious health problem.

I had to be a good patient for myself and do what I tell the patients who are under my care to do:  Give your body time to heal and repair.  Don’t do too much too soon and aggravate what we are working on.

How Long Does it Take to Get Relief from a C5 Injury?

Honestly, most of my patients make the mistake of doing too much too soon.  My treatment protocols are highly effective for most people and many of my patients get surprisingly quick relief considering how long that they have suffered from their health problem and how many other failures they have had trying to get relief.

Most of my patients have already had surgery that didn’t work, injections, physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, radiofrequency nerve root ablation (nerve burning), etc…  and are still in a lot of pain.

So, when they come to see me and have relief within a few weeks, it is only natural to do some extra house cleaning or get out in the yard and do too much.  My patients tell me that they woke up, had much less pain, got excited, and just got carried away with what they were doing.

It makes me smile when I remember a patient who came in a few years back.  He was in his mid-70’s and had to use a walker to walk when he first came to me.  He got better really fast and was able to put the walker up.

On a Monday morning (going into his 4th week of treatments) I saw him coming to the front door of my clinic with his walker again.  I met him inside of the door and asked him what happened because he had been doing so well.

He told me how he was feeling so good that he worked on his tractor and did work around his farm that weekend.  He said that he was feeling so good and that he hadn’t been able to do anything for so long that he was excited and overdid things.

I told him that it was too early to go back to that kind of work and that his body hadn’t had time to heal yet.  He smiled really big and said, “Dr. Currie, you did it once and I know you can do it again.”

I had to explain to him that just because the treatments worked for him the first time, didn’t mean that they would “do it again”.  He took things more seriously and ended up doing really well.  He just had to have a wake-up call.

I understand it.  That’s what I did.  I had to have a wake-up call to do the right thing and give my body time.  I had to get off of my mountain bike for a while but it has been worth it because I haven’t had pain in my left arm, thumb and first finger for many years now and I’m very grateful.

Yes, I have bone spurs and degenerative disc disease in my neck.  I don’t have problems with it though.  It can be there as long as it isn’t creating pain and problems for me.  I can handle that all day long.

You may not have pain in your upper arm, thumb or first finger, but you may be having neck pain, arm pain, or pain in your hands or upper back muscles that could be coming straight out of your neck.

What is the Brachial Plexus?

Generally, pain into the thumb is the radial nerve.  Pain in the palm in the median nerve.  Pain in the pinky is the ulnar nerve.  All three of those nerves come out of the middle to lower part of the neck C5-T1 which is called the brachial plexus.

In Latin, brachium means “arm” and plexus means “bundle of nerves”.  So, the bundle of nerves that goes into your arms, upper back and hands come out of the middle to the lower part of your neck.

Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome come from the Neck?

I believe that is part of the reason for why I treat so many people who have had failed carpal tunnel surgery.  The median nerve goes through the carpal tunnel.  It also runs through holes (foramen) in the mid to lower neck.

You can have median nerve symptoms which could cause carpal tunnel patterns of pain and not have a pinched median nerve in the carpal tunnel itself.

If you have a history of neck pain, a previous whiplash injury, muscle spasms in your upper back, etc… you may want to think twice before you let someone operate on your wrist and possibly create scar tissue, nerve damage, or other problems that can come with a failed surgery.

It is my strong conviction and belief that before anyone lets someone put a scalpel to a part of your body, that you should exercise ALL alternative and non-invasive options first.

Even in 2018, people get infections, permanent nerve damage, scar tissue, and die from a “simple” or minimally invasive procedures and surgery.  I heard a statement once, and I believe this with every ounce of my being:

“There is no such thing as a “simple” surgery unless it’s being done on someone other than you”.

I’m thankful and grateful that my pain went away (and has stayed away) after the treatments I did in my clinic.  If you are suffering from any type of neck pain, upper back pain, low back, hip or leg pain, sciatica, neuropathy, or radiculopathy (nerve pain), contact my clinic to see if my treatment protocols could possibly help you get back your lost quality of life.

Health is Happiness,

Dr. Keith Currie

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"I have a close family friend that saw Dr. Currie years ago and she’s still doing great. I’ve had one back surgery and I didn’t want to have another so I decided to see Dr. Currie. My pain was severe, a constant sharp pain that went from my back to my legs and feet. It was a full 10/10 and now it’s a 0. Dr. Currie has also worked with me through nutrition and I’ve lost 20 pounds, feel healthier, I have a much clearer mind, and much more energy. I could go on and on about Dr. Currie and what he has done to help me and how his treatments have changed my life."

by - Bob L., Fairfield Bay