Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Everything Has An Upside

Personally, I don't recommend you try to develop peripheral neuropathy for any reason, but if you're stuck with it, there can be advantages...

When I was in the neighborhood of ten years old, I accidentally raked the index and middle fingers of my left hand across the rotating blade of a table saw. It sliced into each finger tip parallel to my fingernails and took out chunks of meat. I was surprised at how much blood could come out of fingers, since there aren't any arteries that far from the heart. But those little veins and capillaries carried an awful lot of blood. Yuk. I hate seeing blood. Especially mine.

Of course, the wound healed over within a week or two, but those fingertips were still sensitive to touch for a long time after that. Eventually, though, they got to where I didn't notice them any more.

That is, until the first time I tried to play a guitar. Trying to fret the strings was too painful to endure. Yeah, I know, it hurts every new guitar player until calluses form. Except my index and middle fingers hurt far worse than the other two fingers, especially when I pressed right on the scars in certain directions, so I'm pretty sure that was worse than usual. At any rate, it was bad enough to keep me from trying for more than a few minutes once every few years.

Now, take that scenario, add a couple of decades of nerve deterioration in my hands, and viola, those two troublesome fingertips no longer hurt too much to fret a guitar! They still hurt a little bit, but I figure they're about the level that most people would normally feel. That's where my neuropathy really pays off! :) And as an added bonus, my ring and little fingers on my left hand don't hurt at all... they're too numb!

My best neuro-doc has also told me that my peripheral neuropathy may improve eventually, since it was caused by deficient levels of thyroid hormones that is now being controlled. So, I may lose numb-finger "advantage", but if I do, you can be sure I'll have well-developed calluses long before then. Make hay while the sun shines, as they say, or in this case, make calluses while the pain is numbed!

Why guitar? I couldn't stand the poor sounds I was getting out of my violin long enough to get to the point where it wasn't too annoying. I don't really care much for the sound my autoharp makes. My trumpet is a little too LOUD to practice whenever I want. The guitar is easy to get good sounds out of if you can hold the strings down, I like the sound I get with thumb picking/strumming (don't care much for the sound I get from picks), and its quiet enough that I can practice any time I want!

Oh, and why are my hands and arms numb, but the nerve damage in my feet causes a nasty burning sensation? I dunno. It's relatively common for peripheral neuropathy, but no one seems to know why some people get burning sensations vs. numbness in various places. That's one of the 23,917,603 reasons I say that medical science, like all other sciences, is still in its infancy.