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White Knuckle...What Does it Mean?

February officially kicks off NASCAR racing season. Today, the NASCAR Cup Series hosts the 2.5-Mile Oval, two rounds of pre-season practice racing at the Daytona International Speedway. Tomorrow is the official Daytona 500 race.

Some of us will be enjoying the kick-off of the season. But, the white-knuckle drivers will be making their early mark by racing around the speedway today and tomorrow to learn what is in store for them for the upcoming racing season. There is sure to be some white-knuckle racing.

So, where does this term “white-knuckle” come from? It may indeed refer to a medical condition caused by excessive vibration, like professional race car drivers experience.

Also called white finger, hand-arm vibration syndrome or dead finger, the actual medical term for white-knuckle pain is called Raynaud's Phenomenon. Raynaud’s can be caused when exposure to cold abnormally reduces blood circulation, causing the skin to become pale, waxy-white or purple. Raynaud's Phenomenon also has different causes including workplace exposures. It’s usually found in industrial injury triggered by continuous use of vibrating hand-held machinery.

The usual symptoms of white-knuckle syndrome also include:

  • Considerable tingling in the hands and wrists.
  • General whiteness of the fingers.
  • Pain and loss of sensation in the fingers.

You may ask, is Raynaud’s Phenomenon a serious medical condition? Usually, Raynaud's is not dangerous—it's just painful and frustrating. When blood flow returns after suffering removing yourself from the cold, the skin turns back to its natural red color, and may throb or tingle for a bit. Raynaud’s usually doesn’t persist in these cases. To prevent Raynaud's in the hands from cold exposure, be sure to cover your hands completely.

Workplace Raynaud's may be more persistent though. You may want to cease use of the vibrating tool(s) that is causing your Raynaud’s. If that doesn’t solve your white-knuckle pain, a more severe case may require medical attention.


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