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Affiliated Arm Shoulder & Hand Surgeons Ltd.
3104 E Indian School Rd * Suite 200
Phoenix Arizona 85016
(602) 954-9484 * Fax (602) 954-6433


Desensitization Exercises

After you injure a nerve in you arm, hand or finger, you need to allow enough time for nerve repair to occur. Unfortunately, many patients have burning pain, tingling and numbness in the affected part during this time. This is because their growing nerve ends are irritated and need to be retrained. Retraining a nerve can be easily done by over-stimulating it. We all do it everyday. For instance, when you step into a hot bath, it seems very hot at first. However, after a minute or so the bath seems more comfortable. Basically, the sensory nerves on the skin were over stimulated with heat to the point that the brain turned off the signal; much like we turn down the volume on a loud stereo. Therefore, we can retrain any nerve (including injured ones) by over-stimulating them to the point where they will be turned off or toned down.

For injured nerves in the hand or fingers, I have a simple five step program to desensitize irritable nerve endings.

Step #1 – Tap the stump or injured part against the opposite hand and later against progressively harder objects.

Step #2 – Put dried beans or lentils in an eight inch pie plate and open and close the hand in the plate. Do this at least one hour, per day while watching TV.

Step #3 – Same as Step 2, but substitute popped and un-popped popcorn.

Step #4 – Same as Step 2, but substitute nail brads three/fourths to one inch long.

Step #5 – Same as Step 2, but substitute standard roofing nails.  

Step 1, 2 and 3 can be done in the first three weeks after the wounds are healed and dry. Step 4 can be done in the next two weeks and Step 5 can be done usually two months after the injury. By the time Step 5 is completed the nerve has been retrained sufficiently to allow most jobs to be done without difficulty.