How to Treat Calluses from CrossFit and Weightlifting

What Causes Calluses?

A callus is a hardened and dry patch of skin that appears due to friction and pressure. Calluses can form where the friction meets between the weights and the skin of the palms. A callus is a thickened area of soft tissue that has been exposed to friction, usually from exercise like CrossFit or weightlifting. It may also be new tissue formed over a wound. Knowing how to treat calluses can prevent serious complications.

Calluses are Not Inherently a Bad Thing

Like many things our bodies do that seem “bad”, like fevers, bruising, and scarring calluses are similar. Our bodies do things to protect us or help us recover from injury. Calluses form on the hands where we grip a barbell. Moreover, calluses help protect our hands from  the stretching of skin on our palms from heavy lifting. We need calluses to be able to lift heavy things in the first place. However, it’s good to take precautions that the forming calluses do not get too big because they can rip off mid-lift. This undoubtedly would become a very painful wound!

How to Prevent Calluses

  • Gym Gloves – The best way we can prevent calluses is by wearing gym gloves. Gym gloves help protect the palms and parts of our fingers from experiencing too much friction from the weights.
  • Liquid Chalk – Liquid chalk is an alternative to block chalk. Chalk may become ineffective after a while, like after consecutive lifts over a few lifting sessions. Liquid chalk is sweat resistant, whereas block chalk easily makes a mess and breaks the focus of a good workout session. Liquid chalk is perfect for gyms that don’t allow block chalk and only requires one application to cover your hands prior to weightlifting.
  • Adjust weight lifting technique or form – One of the most basic ways we can prevent painful calluses is by adjusting our lifting technique and holding the bar better. It’s common to hold the bar by gripping it in the palms for a secure hold. However, this is not always the most efficient method to prevent calluses, as it may lead to larger calluses,  more prone to tearing and painful cracks. It’s best to hold the bar between the palm and fingers right along the knuckles.
  • Lifting Straps – It’s a misconception that using lifting straps is cheating. While lifting straps do allow us to hold more weight, it’s purpose is rather to maintain a safer lift. Shifting the weight solely from the wrists to other parts of the body helps to protect them. This is especially important in lifting weights to target the back or arm muscle groups, as most weight will tend to fall onto the wrists, which can be detrimental if executed improperly. Using lifting straps allows extra give, helping to protect your wrists from injury. Additionally, the extra give allows for skin on the palms to stretch less, preventing the formation of painful calluses.
  • Moisturize skin – coconut oil is a great natural moisturizer that penetrates the skin and isn’t greasy. Coconut oil can be applied onto calluses at night prior to a morning weight lifting session to soften dry skin prone to cracking and breaking.

Why do You Need to Treat Calluses?

It is important to treat calluses to prevent calluses from becoming worse or infected. Treatment can be done without professional intervention. However, treatment is important so that you can avoid further damage and therefore avoid needing professional treatment. If you plan to continue the workout or weight training sessions, then minimizing the risk of further damage to your skin is vital. If you continue to work out without taking any steps to keep calluses from becoming worse, a few things could happen including:

  1. Larger Calluses – Larger calluses are more prone to breaking. When skin breaks, infections can enter the bloodstream.
  2. Infected Calluses – Calluses that are not treated and become infectedmay lead to sepsis, or blood infection. Without any treatment, sepsis may be fatal.
  3. Surgery – Calluses whichare not treated may eventually need medical or surgical intervention.

How to Treat and Manage Calluses from CrossFit

If you accidentally go too far into the skin, there is a risk of causing tissue damage. Tissue damage may lead to an infection, costing you more time and treatment. It may not seem like a huge deal, but it’s possible for an infection to spread to the bone or to the blood. If blood becomes infected, it may lead to poisoning of the blood. Untreated blood poisoning can be fatal. That’s a lot of risk from a small callus which may have been preventable.

Medicated Patch

Using a medicated patch can prevent further growth of calluses.

Cortisone Injections

Opting for steroid injections around a callus can treat painful swelling.

Pumice Stone

You may use a pumice stone to effectively scrub the callus and remove dead skin. How does a pumice stone work?

A pumice stone is an abrasive yet light stone formed when water and lava are mixed together. This can be used effectively and safely to treat and soften calluses by reducing the pain typically caused by further friction.

Moisturizing – Soak hands to soften the callus. Use a moisturizing cream or lotion.

DIY Moisturizing Paste Callus Treatment

2 Tablespoons of waterMix 2 tbsp of water with baking soda.
Baking SodaUse enough baking soda to create a thick  paste.
Lime JuiceAdd a few drops of lime juice.

Apply the paste to areas where calluses are present and cover with a gauze bandage. Additionally, gloves may be worn to allow the paste to penetrate the skin.

How to Treat Calluses Precautions

Over the counter callus home treatments may contain salicylic acid and other chemicals that can cause burns. Safe treatments like the one above are easy DIY options which can be made at home. Knowing what ingredients are present can prevent further painful reactions to otherwise stronger chemicals.

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