Jeffrey Rowland hurt his big toe!

Yeah, this is one of the weird things about these blogs — you learn about trivial odd things that happen to total strangers far, far away, and you can’t resist offering advice. Rowland dropped a beer bottle on his big toe, the nail is turning black, and it hurts, and now thousands of people know about it. It’s somehow charming.

Anyway, I know all about this. My father was a manual laborer, and he was always getting smashed digits … but he had a treatment that worked really well. I had friends who’d come over to visit when I was a kid, and if they had a black nail, my dad would just chortle happily and fix it right up (Yes! You have a glimmering of what my childhood was like!)

Here’s the solution: straighten out a paper clip, and use a match or a burner on the stove to get the tip red hot. Gently touch it to the center of the nail, which will basically melt away in a small spot. When you’ve just burned through, there will be a sudden spurt of blood that will sizzle a bit, but the pressure will be relieved. It will stop hurting and you probably won’t lose the nail, and the operation is completely painless.

It’s also fun at parties.


  1. Canuck says

    A doctor friend of mine recommended that same treatment after I smashed the big toe on my left foot a couple of years ago. I didn’t like the idea of putting that hot thing on my toenail, so instead I took a 1/32 inch drill bit, put it in a small hand held chuck I have, and hand drilled through the toenail. The end result was to relieve the pressure and the pain, but ultimately I did lose the nail.

    This summer I smashed the middle one on the left foot and it just fell off a few days ago. My son stepped on the little toe on the same foot and it’s going to come off in a week or so. I’ve had bad luck with toes lately.

  2. says

    Ugh, I’ve seen my husband do this, but with a needle instead of a paper clip. He’s a carpenter so it happens quite often. It obviously works, but I really, really wish he wouldn’t do it in the living room.

  3. Matt7895 says

    Nice tip.

    I keep whacking my toes into things (I’m really clumsy like that), I’ve never lost a nail before though, they just turn black and hurt like hell. I’ll see if your method takes the pain away.

  4. says

    I’ve done that little trick after a pretty nasty almost death climbing accident. It didn’t help. Lost three nails, but the blood spurt might have been worth it.

    On Saturday night I dropped a full beer bottle on my left big toe at such an angle that the toenail instantly turned black and a unnecessarily high level of pain occurred

    tsk tsk

  5. leeobee says

    My brother-in-law is a great one for home surgery. He once dealt with an ingrown toenail by prising the offending side up, making a small cut to produce a cleaved dangly bit, then ripping the bugger out with a pair of long nosed pliers. He took pains to sterilise everything via flame and surgical spirit, it should be stressed to the enthusiastic.

    Anyone else got a story about cleaved dangly bits? It needn’t concern toenails, although I’d wince at the thought.

  6. Alcari says

    Yeah, I had a “doctor” do this to me once. Needless to say It completely freaked me out, especially the calm tone of voice he explained it in, but it did help.

  7. Lee says

    wish I’d known that when I was younger.

    I went to the dr. for my four smashed fingers-
    and they stabbed it with a needle.
    it was painful, and they squeezed it.

    and that cost money.

    but now I know!

  8. says

    Yes, my dad, a physician, did that regularly with patients–but he also told people so they could do it themselves sans doctor fees (not something everybody would be willing to do to themselves, or to let a non-physician do to them).

    I did it to myself once, but didn’t get any fluids out of it. That probably means it didn’t do me any good.

    Glen D

  9. nekouken says

    I did the same thing when I was a kid and my dad used a drill bit to get a hole in it. Worked like a charm.

    Now I wear steel-toe work shoes (have to; it’s a requirement at work), so I’m not worried about it happening again.

    Oh, and leeobee, I have to do that ingrown toenail treatment to myself every three months or so. If it wouldn’t bleed so much, it’d be fine.

  10. minusRusty says

    This would not have been a fun topic two months ago; now, though after I’ve had to have my thumbnail surgically removed and the skin is back whole and the nail is re-growing, not so much of a problem.

    Yeah, being attached to one’s nails is something. I was rather distressed for the surgery and for several days afterwards. I’ve gone through surgeries before (including surgery on my eyes), but losing my thumbnail… that really bothered me.

  11. Zombie says

    Isn’t this the same dude that got bit by a brown recluse (that’d be a devil spider from hell for y’all nonatheists) and almost had his leg rot off?

  12. says

    I had basically the same thing done to me when I smashed my finger, except I had it done in at the hospital. They took a cauterizing gun to my nail and charged me $$$.

    Why didn’t you post this two years ago? It would have helped me a lot more and saved some money! :P

  13. says


    I did once slice a pinky toe in half longways. We had an old metal window fan sitting on the floor, and I sliced my toe a centimeter deep on the edge while walking by. If it had only been hanging on by skin, I’d have probably taken it off, but there was a good deal of meat holding it on. I washed it off, filled the gap with Neosporin, and taped the pieces together with medical tape. It healed up fine in about a week.

  14. Nick Gotts says

    As a kid I dropped a can of beans on my toe. My grandfather was visiting, and told me it would go black and drop off. I thought he meant the whole toe…

  15. nkb says

    I saw this recently on “Deadliest Catch” on Discovery, in HD, no less (sorry, don’t remember the episode).

    One of the deckhands got his finger smashed between one of the pots and the boat, and couldn’t work with the pain from the swollen finger.

    The blood/puss that comes out is pretty disgusting.

  16. says

    Wow, that’s cool.

    Man, I love science.

    Seriously, this is an amazing discovery and the fact that it is painless (I’ve done this before, learned this from my grandfather) is just amazing.

  17. Chili Pepper says

    I’ve never really had the black nail, but I don’t tend to bruise either – the damage is there, it just doesn’t come with any cool-looking marks.

    I’ve wrecked toes plenty of times, whacking ’em into things, and then looking at them and wondering “was that toe always at that angle?”

  18. alcari says


    A little advice from my brother who has the same problem.
    Just make a little roll of sterile cotton or gauze, make a tiny roll of it (think toothpick thickness) and stuff it between the nail and the skin, where the nail normally grows in.

    The nail will then grow over then skin, instead of into it. Much easier to clip it that way, and much less painfull.
    Replace once a week or so.

    Interesting how an evolution blog is suddenly about pedicures

  19. Richard Harris says

    You all know the story about Jebus being nailed to a cross. How about if he was just getting the toe-nail hematoma treatment? You all know how the religiots like to exaggerate.

  20. says

    You know, one really should use a hot paper clip, not a drill, to make the hole in the nail. Unless, that is, you sterilized the drill bit.

    Sure, you’ll probably get away with using the drill at least 99% of the time, but why risk infection with an unsterilized piece of metal? That’s what’s great about the hot paper clip (nail, etc.), the heat that makes the hole also ensures that it’s not going to cause an infection.

    Glen D

  21. says

    the heat that makes the hole also ensures that it’s not going to cause an infection.

    It also sterilizes the tissue it touches, meaning you don’t need to worry about cleaning the nail (usually), other than getting visible gunk off of it.

    Glen Davidson

  22. Dean says

    The father of my first high school girlfriend showed me this many years ago.
    I arrived to pick her up: he had just gotten home from work. While I was waiting for he called me into the kitchen, chatting (first time he’d met me). As we were talking he did this to his thumb, over the sink.
    Immediately after he was done he asked where I was taking Caren and when I’d have her home. Message was clear.

  23. Scott from Oregon says

    I use a Dremel tool and a very small drill bit.

    Contrary to your “doesn’t hurt” claim, the heat from a paper clip will transfer into the nerves beneath the nail and can sometimes hurt like hell.

    Don’t drill too far.

  24. Chris says

    Nice; I wish this worked on the problems that psoriasis causes my nails. Currently, I wait until a portion of the scale gets in contact with the air. Then the rest of it dries out, I scrape as much as I can, and I excise the now-white portions of nail.

    Then I go scare children and friends with my gnarly claws.

  25. Dante says

    We in the snow-skier/snowboarder community have an acronym for just such an occasion. JHNTYT (JIN-tit); Jabbing a Hot Needle Through Your Toe. It’s the only way you can go on skiing the rest of your day without being in excruciating pain.

    P.S: Doing this on the dashboard of your friend’s car while he’s driving is NOT recommended. Trust me.

  26. says

    We in the snow-skier/snowboarder community have an acronym for just such an occasion. JHNTYT (JIN-tit); Jabbing a Hot Needle Through Your Toe. It’s the only way you can go on skiing the rest of your day without being in excruciating pain.

    Yeah try a pair of too small Tele boots. It’s a guarantee.

  27. Mu says

    I prefer a Dremel with a grinding type tip. So it never actually stopped the nail from falling off, it’s a great conversation stopper.

  28. David Farley says

    I’ve had several toenails turn black and fall off from running (yet another health benefit of running). They eventually grow back, but they’re never the same. I never did the thing with the hot paperclip.

  29. PurpleTurtle says

    Wish I’d known this when i was a kid – I lost my big toenails 3 times over (not through beer though). I’ve always been decidedly clumsy – I’m the only person I actually know who’s cut + bruised their face by walking into doors. Oh yes, plural.

  30. herman says

    As far as I know, you’re not supposed to drill holes in your nails, because of risk of infection. You’re creating a wound, where bacteria can come in, where the nail sealed it perfectly before.

    It’s not quite as entertaining as a blood and puss, though.

  31. Sili says

    Only ever had ‘black lice’ – dunno what you call them in English – when you just get the skin nicked a bit. Much easier to puncture.

    Did have to poke my left tonsil with a big needle a coupla weeks back. Nasty ‘boil’ of some sort.

    I vaguely recall my uncle telling a story about how his … grandfather, I think, cured warts of some sort by first giving them a spoonful of sugar, leaving them to ‘soak’ for a day and then just pulling them out. I think it’s been ages. I only really recall that schnapps was the other ingredient. To be taken internally prior to the pulling – one may have been poured into the wound in the name of sterilisation too …

    Why do I recall half-baked tales like that?

  32. says

    I was totally gonna do that but everybody talked me out of it! When I was a kid I smashed my finger and we went to the free Indian clinic and the nurse did EXACTLY what you described, even with a paperclip.

    I figured it was just sketchy on account of it bein’ free and all but now that I have the blessing of Certified Angel Clubber PZ Myers I think I’m gonna do some entertainin’ later tonight.

  33. Joel says

    I’ve used the drill bit, if the bit is sharp you can just turn it with your fingers and it will cut easily through the nail. No burning for me.

  34. Philip Cunningham says

    Hey PZ,
    I was wanting for you to look at this video and see if this guy might be desecrating the Eucharist, Somebody told me you were a top expert in the whole art of desecrating the holy communion and would know if he is crossing that fine line of pissing God off (if there is a God in your case) and winding up in hell (if there is a hell in your case).

    Kutless – Sea Of Faces

  35. Bezoar says

    Au contrare Herr Doctor. Puncturing a nail is not without potential problems. The nail may still come off depending on how much damage was done to the nail bed. There is infection risk and possible even a ste up for a chronic fungal nail don the road. Just thought I’d send this along.
    Physician Assistant since 1975

  36. says

    I also regret to inform everyone that after bouncing off my toe, the beer landed on a concrete step and died. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, too. Pity.

    Well thank the cosmic muffin it wasn’t the 90min IPA.

    That’s one of my favorites. The 60 min ain’t too shabby either.

  37. MaryM says

    I will happily volunteer my services to anyone requiring this but I can’t stand hot, sharp, piercing things pointed in my direction, so I am afraid I won’t be able to offer my friends the type of entertainment of the caliber you obviously provide for yours.

  38. Sven DIMIlo says

    hmmm, now I’m thirsty…think I’ll stop off at my favorite spot on the way home for a nice pint of Dogfish 60 on draft….mmmmmmm

  39. says

    I’m beginning to wonder if PZ is a webcomic shill (For Dumbrella, in particular). I’ve seen him link Goats, Overcompensating, PvP, XKCD, Diesel Sweeties…you’d think he had interests outside his own blog or something!

  40. Qwerty says

    I had a black thumb nail once when I caught my finger in a door while moving a large trunk through the door. Yes, PZ is right, the nurse of the school I was attending at pierce my nail to relieve the pressure.

    He forget the other ugly part. A few weeks later you’re able to pull the nail away as it loosens from the finger or thumb.

  41. says

    I’m the only person I actually know who’s cut + bruised their face by walking into doors.

    That’s not clumsy: I once tripped over a low wall (about 18″/45cm high) while I had my hands in my pockets and broke my fall with my face, which “added a little character” to it.

  42. Karen says

    Oooh, I’m going to have to do that someday. Not to myself, as the only foot trauma I regularly put myself through involves the aforementioned odd angled pinkie toes… But my husband and father both have the unfortunate habit of dropping weighty objects on their toes. They’ll just *love* this remedy =P

  43. Canuck says

    Just for the record, I did sterilize the drill bit before doing the deed. I also swabbed off the whole toenail and surrounding area with Dettol, and after releasing the pressure I put more Dettol in the hole. It didn’t seem to be a risky adventure as long as one took a bit of precaution to keep things clean.

    I thought about the Dremmel tool too. I have a Foredom hand grinder (looks like a dental drill and goes very fast too) with the small bits that would have made it an easy job, but it was too much bother to get it out, and slowly turning the drill bit by hand was safe enough.

    If I had the same thing happen again, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it.

    But I agree with someone way up thread; this is all a distraction – the important thing here is the beer.

  44. Al West says

    I had a gym horse dropped on my foot when I was 11. Went to the local NHS surgery and the nurse had a special piece of equipment, which was basically a gun shape with a bit of wire at the end that was supposed to get hot and burn through the nail. I say “supposed to” because it didn’t get hot enough in the end, and so she sort of poked it through the nail with some force. Suffice it to say, it was not totally pain free.

  45. says

    You forgot to mention it sounds like popcorn when the internal pressure punches the blood through… Black-bloody popcorn with the smell of burning hair…

    It’s fucking disgusting…

  46. Jams says

    – Um… honey? What are you doing?
    – Just sterilizing this drill bit.
    – Oh. ok. Try not to make a mess.

  47. Scott from Oregon says

    For those worried about a germy drill bit, I mean really…

    What a bunch of sissies.

    Thirty years carpenteering and I’ve blackened every nail on my hands and lost the big toes many times.

    The spurting blood cleans the wound. (And it will spurt!)

    The other trick nobody said anything about is the fact that you want the nail TO STAY OPEN so soak the offending nail after lancing in hot water. This allows the blood to seep without coagulating and will dissolve the drying blood inside the nail. You can actually make a black nail clear again by washing it this way.

    After awhile, super glue the hole closed (after squirting out all the excess water and letting the nail dry underneath, then laquer as per your usual shade and nobody will ever know you can’t hold your beer…

  48. says

    I also regret to inform everyone that after bouncing off my toe, the beer landed on a concrete step and died.


    Will there be a memorial mass?

  49. says

    My dad’s a mechanic and has had several black nails, and I can’t remember him ever using this cure – though of course it doesn’t mean he didn’t. He still has his nails. Of course, if we’re comparing gory finger accident stories…A guy Dad worked got his wedding ring caught on the undercarriage of a truck he was working on and ripped his finger off. Mom won’t let Dad wear his now. And when I was six I pulled an anvil onto my foot, but there wasn’t any permanent damage, just some blood. :)

    Also, wouldn’t the burning thing work better than the drill thing? Sterilization and all that…of course, as I have no intention of ever needing to have this done, the question is purely academic.

  50. MikeM says

    Not to put too fine a point on it – har! – but would this also work to get rid of under-nail fungi?

    Basically, put a hole in the approximate center of a fungal infection, and put liquid anti-fungal there?

    (There. Now you know way more about my toenails than anyone needs to know.)

  51. Azdak says

    I also regret to inform everyone that after bouncing off my toe, the beer landed on a concrete step and died.


    Will there be a memorial mass?

    I am reminded of the eulogy in the Keith’s commercial (the difference here is that in this case, an actual delicious* IPA was harmed. Alexander Keith’s is an abomination).

  52. Azdak says

    *So I understand, though I’ve not actually had the privilege. Feel free to mail me a six-pack. Y’know, in the interest of science…

  53. says

    Speaking of rings and accidents, my wedding band once saved me from some serious pain. I was lifting the top keg off of a stack of three (full, of course) in the cooler of the store where I worked. It slipped (of course), and dropped, pinning my hand between it and another, shorter stack of kegs. As luck would have it, my ring was right on the rim of the bottom keg, and it absorbed a lot of the force (yay silver being harder than gold!). It still hurt like hell, and the ring was smashed into a fairly narrow oval, though not enough to permanently damage it. I did have to take a hammer to it in order to reshape the ring to the point it would come off again. It’s still a bit lopsided.

  54. Azdak says

    …and then there was that time I was nearly trapped in a flooding chamber in an undersea oil rig…

    …oh, wait. I’m thinking of someone else.

  55. Qwerty says

    I would think you would drink the beer first as a sedative;
    then, poke the hole with a hot paper clip.

  56. Slaughter says

    A teacher in high school got a blackened nail when a window sill fell onto it. Another teacher told him to take a straight pin and touch the point to the skin under the, then idly roll the pin back and forth with his other hand. He did it in a study hall and — viola! — blood spurted out and the pressure was relieved.

  57. Peter Ashby says

    My Dad was a Mechanical Engineer and he taught me that one too. Haven’t used or thought about it for years (few heavy things like that in bio labs). So thanks for the trip down memory lane PZ & Rowland.

  58. Disciple of "Bob" says

    I wish I had known this trick. I dropped a large tin of beans directly onto on my toenail once, with the instant nail-blackening and eventual off-fallage. Jeffrey’s right: it DOES produce an “unnecessarily high level of pain”. Completely uncalled-for.

  59. says

    I got a black toenail after tragically dropping a jar of pickles on my foot, but that’s it. My stepdad and stepbrother used to always have black fingernails, I wish I knew this trick then.
    The worst finger tragedy that’s happened to me recently is that I when the paper tray in my office’s copier got jammed I accidentally slammed my finger between the wall and the drawer when I yanked it out as hard as I could. My right forefingertip started to swell, hurt, and turned white. I started alternating between icing it and soaking it in hot salt water to deal with the pain. The bump got so big you could see it actually throbbing. I ended up popping it and all this green stuff (Pus?) came out. I still have no clue what happened, but popping it made it feel much better,

  60. NickG says

    This does work, though I prefer an 18ga needle gently rotated by hand until I encounter blood. This actually makes a smaller hole and can be more definitively sterile. The real trick is apply minimal pressure and let the rotation of the needle gradually deepen the hole over about 30 seconds. You don’t want to pop through with too much pressure and poke the tip of the needle into the nailbed.

    Several important points though:

    1) If it really effing hurts you may also have a fracture of the distal phalanx. Opening a subungal hematoma makes this an open fracture with all of the attendant risks.

    2) If its a small hematoma (like less than 25% of the nail) you are much better off leaving it be and taking an OTC pain medicine.

    3) Regardless of what you are trephinating with (and I admit I never thought of using my dremel) clean the surface of the nail first. Preferably first with soap and water if you have oil or other crud on it then apply a coat of betadine (allow it to air dry without blowing on it because betadine is most effective when its dried.)

  61. stephanie says

    for ingrown toenails: instead of cutting them off you can keep stuffing small balls of cotton under the edge until, with time, the nail grows over the skin instead of under it. And of course, replace the cotton fairly often.

  62. says

    It’s also fun at parties.

    We’ll definitely be sure to invite you to our next soiree. Our friend Laura can show how she can sing the names of all the Kings and Queens of England, and I can do my trick where I stuff my entire fist into my mouth. You’ll fit right in.

  63. Spinoza says

    I have the biggest bony nodule on the top of my left big toe. Apparently I must have broken it (at least once), and I do recall several instances of pretty sharp toe-pain in my years of skateboarding and competitive running… anyway, I tried to re-break and re-position it… but it ain’t gonna happen… it makes balance quite a fun exercise though… the other toes seem to be compensating… lol

  64. Spinoza says

    Forgot to mention, the nail on that toe has come off, as well, during an incident of “skateboard-rage”… kicking 7-ply maple in canvas shoes is not recommended.

  65. Epinephrine says


    Alexander Keith’s is an abomination

    I agree!
    I have had a little trouble finding a good IPA in the beer store however, since Dragon’s Breath IPA disappeared ages ago. Right now I get Sleeman IPA, as it’s available, but for a decent beer I might go out of the way a bit… any advice?

  66. Pimientita says

    Owww!! That exact thing happened to me on my birthday 6 years ago. I did get the nail lanced, but I went to my doctor to do it. I still lost the nail and it hasn’t grown back properly ever since :/ Hurt like a bitch, too!

    I’ve actually broken 4 toes, but only one from dropping a beer bottle on it. My mom yells at me every time I wear flip-flops because all of them could have been prevented if I had been “wearing proper shoes.”

  67. Pimientita says

    That’s not clumsy: I once tripped over a low wall (about 18″/45cm high) while I had my hands in my pockets and broke my fall with my face, which “added a little character” to it.

    That’s not clumsy…I have had four separate friends/family members put colored decals on their sliding glass doors because of me. My nickname is “Crash.” It’s funny, too, because I am very athletic and have great hand-eye coordination when it comes to sports. My optometrist says that I have unusually large pupils (can’t get LASIK because of this *grumble*) and that can affect my depth perception, especially in low-light. I’m going with that, for now. :)

  68. Pimientita says

    for ingrown toenails: instead of cutting them off you can keep stuffing small balls of cotton under the edge until, with time, the nail grows over the skin instead of under it. And of course, replace the cotton fairly often.

    For some reason, that description made my teeth hurt…

  69. Falyne says

    I got a black nail slamming my thumb in the car door… which was already parked at the clinic (I was having a routine childhood checkup). They tried to burn a hole, but by Basement Cat’s hairbls, that hurt! The blood (and pressure) stayed, and the nail peeled/was peeled* (I didn’t like burning, obviously, but once it was loose it was treated in the way I found treating loose teeth to be satisfying. Strange child, I know…) off a few days later.. Playing basketball suuuuuucked for a while after that.

    *I didn’t like burning, obviously, but once the nail was loose it was satisfyingly pulled in the way I found pulling out loose teeth to be satisfying. Strange child, I know…

  70. John C. Randolph says

    I’m with bezoar on this. Exposing the nail bed to the outside is something I would avoid. The one time I’ve gotten a bruise under my big toenail, I just iced it for little while until it quit throbbing, and then took care not to bump it for a day or two.


  71. Michael Sathre says

    PZ I sat across from you at Q-CUMBERS the other week, shaved head, silver beard. I have had to do that very operation too many times. On one occasion, as the nail grow out and detached from the nail bed, I realized I could slide something small under the nail and out the hole. I slide a longish length of tie-wire under the nail and out the hole, up my thumb and under the cuff of my shirt. I left about 1/2″ sticking out. After covering the exposed wire with my other hand I found a co-worker willing to pull the “small” piece of wire out of my thumb. After gingerly and carefully easing several inches of wire out he lost his nerve and refused further assistance and suggested the ER. He was less than pleased when the ruse was exposed.

  72. says

    Like hell it won’t fall off. A jar of peanut butter (the old fashion kind, in glass) fell on my toe, it turned black immediately everywhere except for the bottom right corner.

    Poked a hole in it, blood spurted amazingly, and the pain disappeared. Except, of course, two days later when almost all of the nail fell off save for the small bit in the bottom right corner. That’s when the pain decided to come back.

    Now my nail grows back twice as thick.

  73. Sean says

    I received my introduction to black nail pressure release when I was six years old. Two days after a session of let-us-see-what-is-inside-a-rock went terribly awry, my parents decided my left middle finger might be more than just a tad sore.

    The USAF medical staff confirmed the multiple breakages and taped a splint on to give me the world’s greatest bird flip. I thought I was going home with quite the badge of honor at that point. Hospitals aren’t nearly as bad as schoolyard rumors say.

    I was perplexed why the doctor had a novelty can of Guiness cigarette lighter and an unfolded paper clip. He was just standing there, right in front of me, hold one end of the clip in the flame. I am still unsure as to whether the ambush was preplanned or just a convergence of evil minds.


    My treacherous male parental unit grabs my hand and holds it flat on the table. My poor innocent childhood muscles are helpless against the brute force brought to bear. The doctor, grinning maniacally, slowly approaches as he twirls the glowing shaft of steel. With a sickening hiss he plunges the spear into the tip of my finger. The aroma of cooked me fills the room. Blood erupts from the charred remnant of my mutilated digit.

    It felt a lot better. Then the nausea hit. Then I projectiled all of the doctor. Then I learned a *lot* of new words.

  74. LisaJ says

    I slammed my right middle finger in a shed door when I was 4. I was told that it would turn black and fall off… I only wish now that it had, because instead it just bled all over and a big chunk in the center fell off, and it has never grown back! It’s very messed up looking. Oh well, it gives it a little extra umph when I want to flip someone the bird.

  75. The Cheerful Nihilist says

    (I’m only posting for the 1,000,000th)

    I got a friend who does this impaling a fingernail with a hot paperclip thing. He’s a Teamster and was a fast-pitch softball catcher and was prone to this type of injury. He’d regale me with the details, but fortunately he never made me stand witness. (For those of you who would critique a catcher blistering a thumbnail, imagine what a ball would do if you caught it on the end of your thumb. Also, being a Teamster would naturally endanger your thumb since you’d spend a good deal of your time with it up your ass.)

    Hallelujah. (Wow, I spelled that right without spellcheck. I must check into my cognizant dissonance.)

  76. Aquaria says

    You know, this is probably a great thing, but I’ll stick with the blackened nail. I hate needles.

    Yes, it’s irrational. Yes, it’s stupid. Don’t ask what happens when I have to get any kind of shot. It’s not pretty.

  77. says

    no, no, don’t talk about drills & blackened nails in the same breath!! One of my uni colleagues, some years ago now, thought that using a drill press on the sub-nail blood pool was a good thing to do… Pushing his nail up against the drill… Fairly predictable outcome. The same guy also thought he could save on dentists’ bills by filling the hole in his tooth with – wait for it – quick-setting araldite.

    That doesn’t show us uni folks in a very good light, does it?

  78. bastion says

    Rowland dropped a beer bottle on his big toe, the nail is turning black

    Moral: Drink faster.

    Remember this important equation:

    Lighter bottle = Less Pain

    There’s less likelihood of damage and pain if, when dropped on one’s toe, the bottle is lighter because there’s less beer inside of the bottle.

    In addition, a bottle dropped on one’s toe hurts less when there’s more beer inside of you.

  79. Anonymous Coward says

    I heard someone above about ingrown toenails. I’ve had that, and I solved it by first plying the offending nail part loose and then inserting a bit of tough aluminium foil to kind of cover and extend the nail edge. After a while it kind of grew out. It hasn’t grown in again and doesn’t look weird or anything. I imagine that you’d have to notice and act on the problem early on for this to work though.
    I’ve also lost several toenails and a fingernail as a kid by bumping into things. It made them turn up about 70 degrees and then fall off. But they grew back okay, you’d never know what happened to them from looking.
    And while we’re on the subject, I’ve once bumped a toenail hard enough to make half the toe and nail swollen and black. I didn’t know what to do, so at first I left it like that, but the pain got worse and the swelling bigger. I’m not squeemish but at some point the pain just made me cut the skin and drain it, at which point I wished I had done that much, much earlier. Instant relief; kept the nail; looked normal after just a few hours.

  80. Shadow says

    I had a near-seventeen hand horse come down hard on my foot a couple of years ago. I’ve had horses step on my toes before, but this particular horse was in the midst of a drunken reaction to a medication – which was why I was holding him in the first place, and why I couldn’t drop to the ground rolling about and screaming like I really wanted to.

    I was thoroughly expecting my big toe to be black (and my boot to possibly be filled with blood) when I got home, but it wasn’t the case. The only thing that ever did happen, in fact, was the barest smudge of a bruise on one side. I was never certain he didn’t dislocate it a tiny bit, because I could swear I felt it pop back into place when I dismounted from another horse a few days later.

    To this day, though, it’s not right. I used to be able to pop at least the bottom joint in all my toes, and I can’t on that one anymore.

  81. Stephen Wells says

    Almost twenty years ago I dropped a heavy piece of gardening equipment on my left big toe. The scar tissue in the nail bed means that every so often the nail grows into a warped, humpy monstrosity which must be filed down. And when I say filed, I don’t mean a nail file; I mean I open the toolbox and use woodworking tools.

    It could probably be fixed with surgery, but for now I’m keeping it; it may be the only thing that can distinguish me from my evil parallel-universe twin.

  82. Luger Otter Robinson says

    I managed to get bilateral subungal haematomas in the big toes due to running the Comrades’ Marathon (87km) in South Africa in 1994. I didn’t do anything and eventually both nails went white (good) and then both came off when I took off my socks one day (not so good). They both grew back OK. The best thing I ever did was dislocating the proximal interphalangeal joints in my left 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers on August 2, 2008. I picked myself up, looked at my hand, and pulled the three fingers back into position. Well, I had to. I was getting on the train in Novosibirsk, and if I missed that train, I would have been in severe trouble with regard to my visa. It was a good story to revolt travelers I met afterwards, though.

  83. Ian says

    “I’ve done that little trick after a pretty nasty almost death climbing accident”

    Rev BDC – you go death climbing? I haven’t done that in years! Last time I got so high I almost got to Heaven! Be careful with that now!

  84. Bartlettman says

    Would it be possible to grow your toenails in such a way as to make sculptures, like a toenail arborist? I’m sure you could get it into some modern art show, you might even win, as long as nobody spits on a duck and staples it to a cabbage or something.

  85. Gavin McBride says

    Is there anyone here suffering from the same big toe issue that can test this suggestion and give feeback. It sounds so goddamn yucky that it just MIGHT work.

  86. says

    Ouch. It’s been a long time since I did any serious damage to my feet.

    I’ve had several toenails turn black and fall off from running (yet another health benefit of running)

    Jeez. I run a lot, and aside from a few callouses my nails are fine. Maybe cutting back a little is in order? :)

  87. Mike Corfield says

    A tip for all those budding podiatric surgeons who are going to release their next sub ungual haematoma with a paper clip/needle/drill bit – avert your face as it is often under considerable pressure and you may get a face full of blood!
    BTW paper clips are really useful as I also use them to get small objects out kid’s noses (why do they have to shove peanuts up their nostrils?) or cotton buds out of ears!


  88. Jason Neuman says

    My father is a Podiatrist so I’m going to ask him about this treatment. Sounds interestingly gross.

  89. says

    Rev BDC – you go death climbing? I haven’t done that in years! Last time I got so high I almost got to Heaven! Be careful with that now!

    If you consider wall climbing in Zion and the Fischer twers death climbing. Then yes.

  90. says

    and watch the Yosemite National Park “Luminescent Flights” one. Was on PBS here last night – fantastic.

    Yeah I’ve seen that. Very very cool. Apparently they scared the crap out of a couple climbers. I think that’s on/near the Shield route on El Cap. Never got to climb in the Valley but I’m heading there in late march for a week to do some photography.

  91. SC says

    Never got to climb in the Valley but I’m heading there in late march for a week to do some photography.

    Nice. Did I mention photography’s another of my interests? Hobbies also include: shameless online flirting,…;)

  92. Matt Penfold says

    For those of you who suffer from ingrowing toenails on a repeated basis, can I suggest you go for phenolisation ? You have the toenail removted and hen phenol is used to burn away the nail bed, normally just at the edges.

    I have had it done on both great toes and have not had a problem since.

  93. SC says

    Email me from my site and I’ll send you a link to my photos..

    Will do. And I’ll include a link to some of mine. :)

  94. says

    PZ… Gave Jeffery Rowlands…. advice on a gross injury….

    It’s like all the things I care about just collided. I’m so happy….

  95. Chuck Wolber says

    … and that’s why I never became a doctor … Reminds me of a story my brother in law told. He’s a doctor for the Navy. He was pulling off some guys toe-nail with a pair of (medical?) pliers. He was truly baffled as to why the nurse turned green and ran out of the room, and the patient passed out.

    … and yes, the guy did have plenty of lidocaine pumped into his foot …


  96. Carl Troein says

    I wholeheartedly agree with the previous comment (that’s #126, in case some fool decides to post while I’m typing this (Though nobody on the inter nets would be that inconsiderate, right?)). Since I found out about this an hour ago, I’ve been running around with my laptop showing scientists of various sorts. Shockingly, I have yet to meet someone here (at a summer school populated mostly by biologists) that even knows who these two guys are! Come on! OK, so you might not have heard of PZ Myers, cephalopods or this God person, but J-Ro is the man who invented webcest for cryin’ out loud!

    For what it’s worth, someone asked me about the do-dog T-shirt I was wearing yesterday, and today I got to subvert the minds of the students by talking about parameter sensitivity dressed in the Interweb. To quote that shirt: OMFG! Blogsturbating!