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Help! Cracked Fingers!

Health: Any advice for how to play with cracked fingers?

From Amanda Clark
Posted February 9, 2011 at 02:10 AM

Hi everyone,

I work outside for a living and (particularly in the winter), the corners of my fingertips crack. I wear gloves at work, use neosporin, and lotion, but it still remains painful, can last for days, and can interfere with playing. Does anyone have advice for this problem? Thanks!

Amanda

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 02:11 AM

 Superglue. Not kidding!

From Mark Bjork
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 02:50 AM

To help and especially to prevent try Bee Bar Lotion, available on line.

From Josh Henry
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 03:08 AM

Hi Amanda,

I'll second what Laurie recommends--the instant glues (Superglue, Krazy glue) work extremely well for cracked fingers. I use it all winter long to keep my finger tips from further splitting. Just one small drop will work, as the glue is thin, so it wicks into the crack and seals it up. Once the glue is dry (10 to 15 seconds) I would also recommend that you file over the glued finger tip with a small nail file to smooth things out a bit.

As far as a product to help prevent chapping, Bag Balm is the best one I've ever used. It was made for this problem, is inexpensive, and available at many drug stores.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker & Restorer
www.FineViolinBows.com

From Jim Hastings
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 03:39 AM

Although I am sensitive to cold and among the first to put on heavy gloves or mittens as soon as the cold weather sets it, I don't have this problem with the left-hand fingertips that you described -- and very little with the right-hand ones.

My left tips build up toughness through regular playing -- without being callused.  This somehow forestalls, at least for me, the cracking that can interfere with playing.

Still, as a winter precaution, I apply a concentrated cream to the hands -- a good dab of Eucerin or Equate -- stuff that comes in a jar.  I do this in the early morning and again in the evening just before going to bed.  I rub the fingertips of each hand into the dab I've put on the palm of the hand; then I rub in the remainder thoroughly over the rest of both hands -- special emphasis on insides of hands.  No experience yet with Bag Balm -- will keep in mind.

Avoid running a sleep deficit.  This aggravates chapping and cracking, because the blood vessels constrict, and the circulation isn't as good.

Unlike you, I don't work outside for a living.  Unless you're already doing it, get regular walks into your schedule, if you can, to pump the blood vigorously through the whole system.  I learned this during the Michigan winters I lived through.  After 20 minutes at about 3.5 mph/5.63 kph, my feet and hands would be very warm -- and would stay warm for a long time.  I do this every day.

In winter, I wear triple-layers for a top -- T-shirt, thermal top, sweatshirt.  This gives a lot of heat retention and helps my hands when I'm ready to start a practice session.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 05:30 AM

The cellist in my quartet has the same problem and uses liquid band-aid.  Some principle as super glue and not as likely to have fingers stuck together :) 

I've used Corn-Husker's lotion for really bad dry skin as well as pain old colloidal oatmeal bath powder (which also helps with the itching of dry skin).  If you use lotion, find a brand that does not have alcohol in it.  Vitamin E oil is also good for around your finger tips (and good for your cuticles). 

From Brooke Leaton
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 09:05 AM

I agree with Laurie.  Superglue is the equivalent ot stitch-free glue in the hospital OR.  Also, look into using cotton gloves along with Eucerin or it's equaivalent (library paste consistency)  Use cotton gloves over that gooey mess overnight. Ask for the gloves from a pharmacist.

Another protective device that I saw mentioned on another discussion thread (help!) is that some phamacies and medical specialty places sell "finger cots" aka "finger condoms".  They might help while practicing using the aforementioned remedies.  Or not.

Hope you find a solution to this problem!  sounds like the results of a hard winter!

From John Cadd
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Superglue was originally designed for surgeons in Vietnam as a fast way to close a wound. Or is that all an urban myth?

From Susan Young
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM

What I have often done for very dry hands is to use bag balm or any of the other lotions mentioned above, slather it on thick, then put on mittens.  The mittens will warm the lotion and help it absorb.  Doing this a couple of times a night when you go to bed will really help matters.  If I get just one finger that is in bad shape, I'll do this same thing but use a finger cot for the one finger.

From Andrew Victor
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 03:38 PM

Another (experienced) vote for superglue.

Andy

From Ann Miller
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 04:30 PM

I have this problem, too.  Lately I have found some relief by putting a dab of Aquafor on the crack, then covering with a bandaid.  This doesn't prevent them, though.

From Michael Flamang
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 04:34 PM

I don't think anyone has mentioned the most critical measure. . . you really must minimize dish washing. You just have to get someone else to do it, unless of course you live with other musicians. . . .

From Roland Garrison
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 05:30 PM

One trick I use to minimize rough hands (I don't have a problem with cracking on my fingers, only on my knuckles).
I lotion my hands just before putting on gloves (leather ones, anyway). This keeps the inside of the glove as a 'conditioning environment' rather than adding to the problem. I don't know what kind of gloves you use, but if they are absorbing what moisture your skin has, they may be adding to the problem; different gloves may help.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on February 9, 2011 at 11:28 PM

Neosporin covered with a bandaid for a couple of days.  If you don't have a couple of days, go straight to the super glue/ liquid bandage.  Any hand cream with shea butter in it works well, last a long time, and doesn't feel greasy.

From Lyle Reedy
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 12:39 AM

"Superglue was originally designed for surgeons in Vietnam as a fast way to close a wound. Or is that all an urban myth? "

That's a myth, John. Superglue was, indeed, used instead of stitches in Vietnam, but it was already around. The military just took advantage of it. If it had been designed for that purpose we would not have had to wait another 30 years or so for FDA approval to use it in hospitals.

Josh, bag balm was not made for fingers. It was made for the part of cows implied by the name. Same purpose, though. Or maybe that's what you meant.

From Marianne Hansen
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 01:25 AM

To be clear, if you have used any of the wonderful greases recommended, you need to get your finger tips really clean before applying the superglue.  Maybe wash the dishes that have been piling up while you hoped someone else would do them, then thoroughly dry your hands, then superglue the cracks.

Second finger tip glued  for the last two days.

From John Cadd
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 01:46 AM

Lyle you have knocked down another one.This week though the motoring program told us that Citroen cars riding on a bumpy track would still be able to film horseracing. Whereas a BMW was bouncing all over the place. It was stangely comforting to know some things don`t change.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 03:23 AM

 Maybe a doctor or nutritionist could help answer this, but does including more gelatin in your diet (or taking gelatin) help? I seem to think that it helps nail health and wonder if it helps elasticity in skin at all. At any rate, this is how I justify my Haribo habit.

From Nicole Stacy
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 05:12 AM

I keep a bottle of "New Skin" for paper cuts in inconvenient places.  I'm not sure it's quite as powerful as superglue, but I think it has the bonus of being antiseptic.

In addition to the comment about dishwashing, watch out for instant hand sanitizers -- they are everywhere this time of year. 

From Tom Quinn
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 05:12 AM

 Living in Minnesota I was plagued with cracked finger tips for years until someone recommended Vitamin D to me.  I hesitate giving medical advice, and I'm generally a skeptic on these kinds of things, but I've been taking 3,000 units/day of Vitamin D for the last two winters and have not had one cracked finger since.  Really, not one. 

From Catherine Malinowski
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 07:02 AM

I'm very big on nutrition and supplements, and I am a doc; would definitely take the vitamin D, also zinc and fish oil (for the omega-3).

From John Cadd
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 02:05 PM

Amanda  Do you work with any chemicals or powders that can affect your skin? I heard about an old bricklayer who rubbed Vaseline into his hands before work.He never wore gloves. Cement was notorious for hardening , then splitting the skin .That was when cement powder had very harsh chemicals in it.I don`t imagine you are a bricklayer , but you never know.  The leader of one of the London Orchestras was an amateur bricklayer.A bit of a hobby.

From Susan Young
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 06:17 PM

John, I paint and have the same problem.  I put lotion on my hands before opening the paint can and not only do my hands clean up easier but the paint does not effect them as badly.  Cement will definately do harm to hands.  It's nasty stuff

From Smiley Hsu
Posted on February 10, 2011 at 07:05 PM

" I've never tried or needed to try super-glue on my fingertips but aren't the tips of your fingers too  hard and slippery when you put super glue on them?"

@Pierre,

I tried some liquid band-aid this morning because my fingertips were achy from pressing the strings.  You are right, it makes the fingertips a bit slippery so it is difficult to keep the fingers in place when applying vibrato.  It did help a bit with the achy fingers though.  One thing I didn't like about the liquid band-aid, that stuff smells really bad, even after it is dry. 

 

From Vaughan Jones
Posted on February 11, 2011 at 10:02 AM

When I suffered from this, I found taking an omega complex of essential oils (flax seed, evening primrose) really helped. Also I moisturised my fingers every night and for a while slept with cotton gloves on to help the moisturiser work all night!

Hope it improves soon,

Vaughan

From Dalton Potter
Posted on February 13, 2011 at 05:23 AM

Hi Amanda, I find myself washing my hands a number of times a day because of the work that I do in my shop. I used to have fingertip cracks pretty frequently. I used crazy glue but found like Smiley said that it left a the residue on my fingers. I also tried a variety of supplements and creams that included vitamin D, But nothing seemed to work for very long. I even tried Blue Emu oil and that worked better than most other solutions but I can't handle bow hair with it on my fingers so I had to wash it off frequently. Then I found a product at a local health food store (Bethesda Coop for those in the DC area) called Quantum Derma Herbal Skin Crack Cream. www.quantumhealth.com  it REALLY WORKS!! I hope this helps a few other people...

From Charles Cook
Posted on February 13, 2011 at 05:50 AM

If you also  have dry  wrinkled elbows ,dandruff and other areas of dry skin ,look at  changing your diet.

have more olive oil ,honey ,yogurt, sunflower seeds ,bananas ,have high fiber foods 3 times a week (don't over eat fiber),salmon and tuna ,fresh ground flax seeds with almond milk, spinach. Eat more of the good stuff , stay away from salt ,sugar, white breads ,white rice ,processed meats ,hydrogenated oils .

 

 

From Catherine B.
Posted on April 29, 2011 at 02:48 AM

 I definitely agree with using liquid band-aid.  Although it kinda smells like nail polish, it's worth it.  I've used it on paper cuts that I've had on my hands, and it has allowed me to keep them covered up without restricting the movement of my hands.  It also works for cracked fingertips.  Here's a link to one type of liquid band-aid:

http://newskinproducts.com/en/Products/Liquid_Bandage.aspx

Gloves and moisturizer(maybe even a good hand cream, to be more precise) are definitely a good way to go as well.  Gotta keep them covered up and moisturized!  :-)


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