How to Treat Hand Rips

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If you have been training hard lately, most likely you have formed calluses on your hands. To help you “pre-hab,” we already shared some tips on how best to take care of your hands, including shaving down those calluses regularly and washing and moisturizing your hands accordingly. But just in case you do rip your hands (because maybe you have been practicing those bar muscle ups and/or fat bar thrusters recently), it is possible to continue training — read on to find out how.

How to treat hand rips once they occur

Did you know? At night, cover your hand with a soft sock or glove after putting ointment on the rip — it will heal faster.
If you do tear, treat the wound as quickly as possible. First, make sure that you wash all chalk out of the wound.

Next, clean the wound well to remove any blood, impurities and possible bacteria.

Finally, use a good antibiotic ointment like Neosporin and keep it covered as much as possible for the first day or two to foster healing. The ointment will help quicken healing and keep the tear moisturized.

Remember to do three things before you go to bed that night, per Centurion CrossFit (and the CrossFit Journal):

1. Wash your hands with soap and water one more time.

2. Apply a generous amount of Neosporin to the fresh wound.

3. Cover the wound with a small bandage or tape. This will allow the Neosporin to do its job overnight to keep the area moist and prevent infection.

Gymnasts have another tip to speed recovery during the night: Cover your hand with a sock (with finger holes cut out) or a glove to keep the ointment on your hand and not on your sheets.  This treatment should continue until the rip has been covered by new skin.

For some more alternative treatments, including tea tree oil and Preparation H, take a look at this comprehensive list of recommended and not recommended products compiled by Gymnastics Zone.

How to train with ripped hands

Spend four minutes watching this excellent video from CrossFit Los Angeles for a comprehensive look at how to tape your hands for your next training session: 

Got tape? Not only can you re-use tape straps, but you can also make straps in advance for future use. Want extra protection? Make multiple straps (up to one per finger) to wear during the workout.
Step 1: Measure out a piece of athletic tape from the end of your finger past the base of your hand (longer is fine; too short and you’ll have to start over), and then double that length before cutting it.

Step 2: Fold the tape in half, length-wise.

Step 3: Fold this piece back on itself to make a loop large enough for your finger to fit through.

Step 4: Cut a second piece of tape to secure the seam between the folded tape, still leaving the loop exposed.

Step 5: Place finger through the loop and lay the strap across the palm of your hand (covering the rip); secure the strap to your wrist with more tape. The grip itself should be loose across your hand.

CrossFit Virtuosity lays out similar taping strategies in photos.

They show you step-by step how to go from this: 

To this: 

Finally, if your hands are taking longer to recover (or you are the impatient type), the CrossFit Journal has a good article (subscription required) that describes alternative taping methods and leather hand guards used by gymnasts when training on the horizontal bar or the rings.

Whatever method you choose, remember to use common sense and treat your hands like the valuable tools that they are.

Tabata Tidbits: Additional Tips on Hand Maintenance

Most CrossFitters and other athletes learn quickly that warm-up, mobilization, and recovery is important for the big movers, like hips and shoulders. Here are a few extra ideas on how to take better care of your hands as well:

  • Use contrast baths to improve grip strength and recovery, per Beast Skills:
  • You’ll need two buckets, one in which you’ll put cold water (crack some ice cubes in there too) and one in which you’ll put very warm water (as warm as you can stand — don’t burn yourself). Keep a towel nearby to dry your hands off at the end.
  • Now I like to stick my hands into the cold water first. Submerge them past the wrist and start moving them around. Crack the knuckles if you want, circle the hands, open and close them – just get them moving. Do this for 1-2 minutes, then take your hands out of the cold water and immediately put them into the warm water. Move your hands around again in the bucket for 2-3 minutes. Then pull them out of the warm water, stick them right back into the cold water and repeat the process. You should be able to go back and forth 2-3 times before the waters warm/cool and lose their effect.
  • The contrast in temperatures helps stimulate vasodilation and vasoconstriction in your hands and move blood through them. It’s easy, effective, and your hands will feel much better for it.
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