Strange finger cramps after ice bath - HELP!!

edited October 2012 in Running Science
I'm currently training for the NYC marathon, and after my long runs it helps my legs to take a brief ice bath.  However, after the ice bath, I will soak in warm water.  That's when I develop a strange and powerful arthritic-type pain in my finger joints, mostly in my left hand.  This is not the "stinging & swelling" sensation you get when you stick your cold hand under hot water.  That's different.  This pain is like the worst rheumatoid arthritis pain you can imagine!

What function of the body causes this??  I assume its the lactic acid leaving my legs and entering the blood stream, and perhaps accumulating around my finger joints.  Its ironic that its mostly in my left hand, which is closest to the heart.  The pain hits immediately upon turning on the warm water and last for about 3 minutes.  Also, are then any practical measures I can take to prevent this?

Just curious.  Thanks!  Russ


  • Definitely not lactic acid - it gets a bad name and is not responsible for the burn we feel after hard effort. Here's a read on it:

    As for what does happen, I get weird cramps frequently after hard, long runs. Often happens in my lower jaw of all places. I think it's more an effect of fatigue than anything - neuromuscular control goes a bit haywire and normal control of muscles gets messed up for a bit. This article on the Science of Sport explains it well:

    Any chance the hand that cramps is used to hold something when you run (e.g., an handheld water bottle)?
  • Thank you!  Very interesting articles also.  However, the pain is definitely in my finger joints and not a muscular cramp.  Feels like a terrible case of arthritis for about 3 minutes.  Only hits when the hot water comes on following my ice bath.  
    Its not a problem, other than the pain.  I'm just curious as to why this happens.  It is a very strange sensation to say the least!  :-)

    Thanks again,
  • Hmm...definitely strange, especially since it's only on one side. Not sure what's up.
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