Numb, painful toes week after ice climbing

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 majajaja 18 Mar 2023


Wondering if someone had a similar problem or know anything in the topic. I went ice climbing a week ago in freezing temperatures ( around -15 C), my shoes are very stiff and slightly too small, additionally I am not a very experienced ice climber, so I'm pretty sure I was kicking the ice way too hard. 

Straight after the climbing, I didn't feel anything unusual (my toes were numb but they usually are after a few hours of exposure in a freezing temperature). After an hour from the climb I started feeling horrible pain in my toes. It's been a week since it happened and the pain doesn't seem to be going away. Some of the toes are a bit numb, but I can move all of them and they feel pretty warm. I mostly feel the pain at nights, but the last two days have been particularly painful also during the daytime.

Does anyone had a similar experience and knows what can i do to recover fast and how long can this last?

 Heike 18 Mar 2023
In reply to majajaja:

I would say it is probably chillblains. I have had this before. You can get creams from the chemists that help a little.  See NHS info below

 The Potato 18 Mar 2023
In reply to majajaja:

I agree with this, i get it every winter, and find hydrocortisone 1% works well either from chemist or eBay

OP majajaja 18 Mar 2023
In reply to Heike:

Thanks for reply! Can i ask how long did it take for you to heal?

In reply to majajaja:

It could be superficial frostbite (what sometimes gets called frostnip) it's really alarming when it happens to you because at least when I did it my toes went waxy white and the skin went hard. They looked and felt really weird - not "natural" at all! It hurt like hell as they warmed back up although I don't remember much beyond tingling after that.

You could have just bruised your toes from kicking as well - I know people who have done that. "Slightly too small" I'm afraid is a really bad idea for ice climbing boots, especially if you are lucky enough to live somewhere where it regularly gets into the minus teens!

 Heike 19 Mar 2023
In reply to majajaja:

It took a while, sort of reappearing over the winter, maybe a couple of months? But never had it since. I applied the cream regularly (although it was very smelly)

In reply to majajaja:

Sounds possibly like chillblains, or else a combo of frostnip and bruising from repeatedly jamming your toes into the front of your boots - all exacerbated by boots that are too small. Frostnip numbness has always resolved itself for me in 3 -4 weeks, sometimes with skin peeling. Unfortunately, properly sized boots are important - you will be warmer and they are less forgiving on the toes. 

 olddirtydoggy 20 Mar 2023
In reply to majajaja:

Can't comment about the medical side but you do mention your boots being on the small side. I have a perfect fitting pair of B3's but noticed I was getting problems with circulation due to a feeling of tightness. The socks ended up being the problem as they were the thickest I could get. I dropped down to a much thinner sock and the normal wiggle room in the boot have allowed my feet to keep circulating and the issue this year in Norway didn't come back. It would be a shame to stop climbing ice if the fix could be something simple for next time. Good luck with the recovery.

 Tim Sparrow 20 Mar 2023
In reply to majajaja: I have this every winter after a similar episode (and mild frost nip many years before that).

Really messes my winters up these days as rock shoes are a no no when it flares up. Strangely, never get it after winter winter climbing, maybe as I have got a good boot / sock combination these days.

interesting to read about the hydrocortisone cream. I have been using Balmosa,  Sudocrem (magic cream that all parents know about) and ibuprofen gel. None seem to work!

 J72 20 Mar 2023
In reply to olddirtydoggy:

Second this sort of counter-intuitive advice.  With tighter boots my feet are much warmer in a thinner sock I think because if the boot is tight and circulation is poor in the feet, there is little heat to be held by the insulated thicker socks.  With thinner socks/less restrictive lacing the blood flow ensures warmth in the toe which is then insulated by the (albeit thinner/less warm on paper) socks. 

In reply to olddirtydoggy:

Like J72, I heartily also suppport the sock thickness thing. I witter on about it in this review with those boots I wear a relatively thin synthetic sock for maximum wiggle room for toes. With thick wooly socks they are colder. But with these boots I even note in the review I bought these Aldi loop stitch thermal socks which are great, because the Trangos have almost too much internal volume, but wearing the thick socks both makes them fit secure AND makes them surprisingly warm. 

OP majajaja 20 Mar 2023
In reply to majajaja:

Yes, I totally agree about the boots. That was a stupid mistake I will never repeat.

Thankfully I managed to get an appointment with neurologist. She seemed to be thinking it's a combination of mechanical injury (from kicking) and mild frostbite. The nerves are apparently dead or damaged. The pain will most likely persist for another month, but the full recovery of the nerves can take up to one year. She said the best treatment is taking nerve pain targeted medication, I got prescribed gabapentin, but there is a few more other options on the market. The other thing she mentioned is supplementing vitamin B12, especially if you are on a vegetarian diet like I am. That, she said is generally beneficial to prevent frostbite if you are exposing yourself to extreme temperatures often.

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