Our hands have evolved as powerful tools to explore the world. Along with these amazing body parts are included many, many nerves. In fact other than the tongue, our fingertips have the greatest concentration of nerves anywhere in the body!

More nerves unfortunately means more pain when structures nearby are injured or inflamed. A small cut on your forearm or leg for example won’t be nearly as painful as the same cut on your fingers. A skin infection in your hands hurts more than one in your thigh.

One injury in particular routinely elicits more pain than most. If you happen to crush your fingernail under a hammer while, say trying to watch your 2 year old at the same time as attempting to fix a cabinet, you will instantly realize what you have done.

Blood can collect under the nail and since the nail is rigid, pressure will increase under the nailbed. Sure that will limit the amount of blood, but the pressure will of course activate those wonderful nerves, which had you been more attentive to the trajectory of your hammer, might have been put to more pleasurable tasks such as holding your 2 year old’s hands.

This is called a subungual hematoma,like most medical terms, an odd combination of Latin and English. There is a simple treatment which provides instant relief. A wire or small needle is heated. The doctor ( or if you are particularly brave yourself) then quickly punctures the nail right over the area of blood. A small amount of blood immediately gushes forth and the pain subsides magically.

You still need to keep the nail clean and might even have to squeeze it a few times under some warm water so that the hematoma or blood doesn’t return. Just remember next time to either watch your kid or fix the cabinet-not both at the same time!