The weirdest thing: a week ago today I spent an hour or so spray painting some patio furniture down at my mom’s house. I went through about 2 1/2 cans of spray paint. By the time I was done, the tip of my index finger was numb right where I was pressing down on the button of the paint can.
I was kind of surprised when it didn’t go away in a few minutes, and more surprised when it was still numb the next day. So now I’m really surprised since my fingertip is still numb a week later. After a couple of days the numb area got a little smaller, but after that the numbness has remained the same.
Update 8/15: It’s now been 11 days since I wrote this post and my finger’s still just as numb as it was then.
I’m not the only person this has happened to: see Numbness in Finger Tips. The doctor there guessed that it was caused by the compression of a small nerve in the finger. It sounds like the time I fell asleep on a plane with my elbow in an awkward position and, anesthetized by several beers, slept like that for about 3 hours. When I woke up my whole hand was completely numb. After a couple of days it went down to just the ring and pinkie fingers and the side of my hand, and they stayed numb for about a week. After about a week I started getting feeling back but it took about a month for it to go away completely.
Update 9/17: It’s now been about 7 weeks. My fingertip isn’t exactly numb anymore, but it still doesn’t feel quite right. It took about 5 or 6 weeks for the feeling to come back at least partially, and it still isn’t all the way back.
It turns out that this is even more common than I thought before. So common that there are products designed to keep it from happening, such as the Can-Gun. I also came across a Yahoo Answer about spray painting and finger numbness. I would have told them what caused it but it was already closed to new answers by the time I found it.
Update 5/22/08: Now it has been 9 months since the original incident. The very tip of my finger, right below the nail, still has a very small numb spot. Ever so slightly tingly, but otherwise it is dead to the touch, no feeling at all. I guess that’s not coming back if it hasn’t by now. I’ve gotten used to it and don’t notice it unless I get an email that there has been another comment on this post or I see an ad for spray paint.
Update 9/16/08: Roughly 14 months now since all this started. Things are basically where they were back in May. The tingling has gone away completely but the dead spot at the tip of my finger is still there. It doesn’t interfere with my life and I don’t think about it except when I get an email that there has been another comment on this post. There’s a spot on the very tip of my index finger by the nail (oddly enough about the size of the business end of a spray paint can) that is completely without feeling. If I touch it with another finger it feels kind of like a callus except that it’s not a callus — to look at it it doesn’t look any different than the rest of my finger. It’s just completely numb. I have given up on having the feeling ever come back in that little spot.