View Full Version : Painfully Shriveled Fingers

Bill Cleveland
January 5th, 2007, 02:30 PM
We have a swimmer that is struggling with shriveled fingers to the point that they are so painful to discourage swimming. Lotions and vaseline have been tried to moisturize the hands. Anyone have any ideas how to help?

Bill Cleveland
Red River Masters
Shreveport, LA

January 5th, 2007, 02:38 PM
Not knowing a whole lot about shriveled fingers I am wondering if you are drinking enough water. I'm thinking you might be dehydrated. Otherwise consider vaseline on your hands and then placing your hands in a cotton glove when you go to sleep. It might help. Other than that you might consult a dermatologist. Hope one of these helps. Andy

January 5th, 2007, 04:12 PM
the shriveling effect caused by prolonged immersion in water is actually not shriveling. the keratin layer of skin enlarges beyond the capabilities of the connective tissue to keep that keratin layer tight to the body.

(for more info on this effect, check out this debate:

in essence, prolonged immersion in a pool supermoisturizes the affected keratin tissues.

so, what kind of pain is experienced exactly?


Bill Cleveland
January 5th, 2007, 04:25 PM
The swimmer says that he is adequately hydrated and appears so. The pain is a tingling in the fingers, especially for the fingertips.

January 5th, 2007, 04:32 PM
is it an immediate pain upon entry? if not, at what point does it occur?

January 5th, 2007, 08:22 PM
hey Bill, try to get your swimmer to swim with lightly closed fists, or even fist gloves if available in a good size. Maybe it will work out to keep up the swimming.

I "invented" the technique back in 1972, 8-30-72, to be exact, to relieve my hands from "falling asleep" in distance swimming. On 9-2-72 my calendar says that I swam the 1500 in 33 minutes. (To find the time perspective, it was 9-4-72 that Mark Spitz won his 7th gold medal at the Olympics), and on9-9-72 my 1500 meter time was 31:41. I was 47 at the time. Later I calculated that the closed fists slowed me down ten per cent, and took ten per cent more strokes per length. A few years later I got Doc Counsilman to get used to that way of swimming in case he found it necessary to help him get through the English Channel Swim. (Fortunately, he didn't need it or the tide would probably have defeated him).

Anyway, the closed fist system has benefited me and many others through the years in many ways, when used both as a warmup and warm down in practice and competition. Of course, it is a little awkward for the first few yards, but the ease will soon become apparent, since one is not extending the fingers and the reduced "paddle surface" takes a substantial load off the shoulders' work. Try it, you'll like it.

Rob Copeland
January 6th, 2007, 03:13 PM

Try surgical latex gloves.

January 7th, 2007, 08:48 AM
I had the problem with my feet when I was teaching in warm water years ago. I tried everything and found that when I applied a cream that was also used to prevent ring worm the shriveling stopped. It was not ring worm but something in the product worked.