I think the two most common and often misunderstood problems in rope are circulation and nerve problems and more importantly how to spot the differences between them. It is not always simple, but here are a few points to guide towards what the problem could be.
I am not a medical professional, everything written here is my opinion or given to me by medical professionals regarding my own injuries. If you have an injury my best advice is to seek medical advice for your injury.
The three factors in the causing of nerve problems are, position, pressure and duration. The longer you leave it the worse it becomes so speaking up immediately is vital even if you don’t know what’s causing it. You can always talk about and work out what it was afterwards but because nerve problems come on instantly, you must speak up instantly and the rigger should take action instantly.
So I guess the next question would be, what do nerve tingles feel like? Nerve tingles are usually distinct because only part of your hand will go numb or tingly. The radial nerve runs to the back of the thumb, index finger, middle finger and closest side of the ring finger. The median nerve runs to the palm side of the thumb, index finger, middle finger and closest side of the ring finger. The ulnar nerve runs to the rest of the ring finger and baby finger. This varies for the front and back of the hand so please see this diagram for more information. Please see the images below for illustrations.
If you have tingles or numbness in part of your hand it is definitely time to be untied, you can always be tied up again but best to be safe rather than sorry.
While circulation gets a lot of attention it is not an immediate danger, change of arm colour will differ from person to person, I tend to change colour quite quickly and know my body well enough to know when its time to come down. The main problem with circulation is that it can mask nerve tingles, so the point I usually need to come down is if the circulation tingles get so bad I would not be able to tell if I had nerve tingles. Thankfully while my arm colour changes I don’t tend to get tingles much.
Having said that, circulation problems are not something to be ignored, it is a warning sign which needs to be acted upon. If you don’t act on it, it will soon become a danger but it does not present the same urgency as nerve problems.
Not everyone gets tingles, a few tips for your rope top to check in on you is;
- Running the back of their nails along your hand, foot, or body part under stress. This will test sensitivity and sensation, which is usually a symptom of nerve damage, either dull sensations, misinterpretation of sensation for example, feeling pain at the slightest touch.
- Placing their hand in yours and getting you to squeeze down on them. This will check for motor control and also let them know you feel okay if this is a pre agreed signal.
- Placing their hand on the back of your hand and asking you to push up against them. This will be an indicator of nerve damage as motor control is usually a symptom of nerve damage.
Circulation tingles tend to come on gradually, while nerve tingles are usually instant. You will find with circulation that the tingles will disappear when the tension is released or you are untied, nerve tingles can vary significantly from person to person and depending on what happened, they can disappear instantly, it can take a few days and even up to a few months or a year.