Aroused with numb fingers?

Dear Alice,

I've noticed when I get highly sexually aroused, my fingers get numb, and so do my lips. Is this normal?



Dear Worried,

Tingly sensations, mind-blowing muscle contractions, temperatures rising…oh, oh yes! Sexual arousal can be manifested in a myriad of ways. Each person has unique physical, mental, and emotional responses to sexual stimulation, which can make sexual arousal all the more exciting! Numbness in the fingers and lips may simply be your body's particular way of expressing its sky-high titillation. Should you experience any pain along with your numbness, it may be wise to speak with your health care provider to rule out the possibility of an underlying health issue. Otherwise, seek out your sensitive side, and enjoy the ride!

Sexual education classes are often genital-centric; that is, they fail to mention how the entire human body is a canvas for the art of sexual excitement, rather than just the reproductive organs. Erogenous zones are areas on the body that are particularly sensitive to sexual stimulation. From nipples to toe nibbling, each person is unique in terms of what areas of their body turn them on, as well as what areas experience the most sensation. Numbness in the lips and fingers may just be your own response to sexual arousal — there is nothing unhealthy about such an intense physical and chemical reaction.

Going back to the basics, both men and women experience two basic physiological response patterns along the road of sexual excitement:

  • Vasoconstriction, or when body tissues fill up with blood and swell in size. This causes a man's penis to become erect, as well as women's breasts to swell and their vaginas to lubricate. It can affect other parts of the body too, such as the labia, testicles, clitoris, and nipples.
  • Myotonia, or increased muscle tension during sexual arousal. This includes both flexing (which is voluntary) and contractions (which are involuntary). This is responsible for the muscle contractions that occur during both male and female orgasms. Myotonia also causes facial grimaces and twitches in the hands and feet.

There are multiple steps along the pleasure path: desire, excitement, plateau, and orgasm. Along the way, different body parts may be stimulated in different ways. Communicating with your partner is a key step in ensuring that you are comfortable with the different sensations that you are experiencing. It is important to let your partner know if you feel discomfort or want to stop. 

Whether it's a primary or secondary erogenous zone, no single region of the human body monopolizes all of a person's sensitivity or pleasure. Sexual experiences are not only physical and sensory, but also chemical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, cultural and multi-sensory. So go ahead — embrace your unique sensitivity for a more volcanic experience!

Last updated Feb 12, 2015
Originally published Jan 28, 2011

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