Dealing with Finger Chafing, Blisters and Calluses

When you think about taking up poi dancing, and especially if you’re looking to spin fire, the first thought in terms of safety most people seem to have is either about setting themselves on fire or simply how much it hurts to get hit with the poi. Lesser known but perhaps more annoying because of the persistent nature of the situation is the issue of finger chafing and blisters.

fire dancingIf you’ve been practicing a lot and noticed either irritation, redness, swelling and/or blistering on the sides of your fingers, you’re like thousands of people who have gone through this same issue before you. Here’s some tips to help you develop calluses to support your practice.

  • Interval training. If you cover the area with something like tape or a glove, you won’t actually develop the calluses. At the same time, if you work the area too hard in too short a period of time, you’ll have so much irritation that you’ll blister and render the area so tender you can’t practice at all. The compromise is to use this interval training technique that allows you to gradually develop your callus while remaining in control of the discomfort and inconvenience associated with the process. Here’s how it works. Start by practicing without coverage on your sensitive area. Continue practicing until you feel irritation but before you feel a blister forming. At that point, either stop practicing or cover the area and continue practicing. When you return to the practice next, again, start without the area covered and then cover it as soon as you find the irritation too distracting and/or too close to blistering. Note that if your downtime between practice sessions is a short interval, you may be too sensitive from the last session to practice without hand protection for very long at all.
  • Tape your finger. My preferred first line of defense is one of two things, depending on what I have on hand and which I feel like.
    • Coban: What I like about Coban is that it doesn’t have any adhesive on it. I find that with the athletic tape, after I’ve practiced for a while the adhesive starts to slip out from under the tape and melt onto other parts of my fingers and/or seemingly my poi too and makes my poi and/or fingers sticky. This isn’t a problem with the Coban.
    • Athletic tape: What I like about athletic tape is that it doesn’t have any compression on it. While the adhesive may sometimes get on other parts of my fingers, Coban is woven with a stretch material in it so that when you apply it, you have a certain amount of compression on your finger which is what has it stick to itself and stay in place without adhesive. The challenge is that it can be a little thicker and if you don’t get the right amount of tension, the Coban can create circulation issues in the finger itself. Additionally, I find anything on my finger to be a little bit of a bummer because I do feel confined to some extent, especially in my joint. With the Coban, it’s easier to do one piece that goes over the joint to get it to stay. With the tape, I cut these rolls in half and tape around the knuckle, allowing for greater range of motion and less of a sense of constriction. I’ve tried a lot of different brands of athletic tape and I prefer this one because thus far, for me, it’s yielded the least amount of ancillary adhesive leakage to other parts of the hand and my props.
  • Gloves. It’s an obvious choice to consider gloves but the other pretty obvious downside as soon as you try is that your sensitivity with you hand is limited quite a bit and your ability to sense subtlety in the motion of the poi against your skin is diminished. That said, especially with chain and heavy poi, gloves can be useful if you have a full night of fire dancing planned. Blisters on your fingers while fire dancing is definitely not the most fun  you could be having with your poi. For fire, I tend to get nice looking ones that are on sale in the summer from Wilson Leather.
  • Salve and massage. You can help your skin recuperate between sessions by using a salve and massaging the impacted area. This will cause increased circulation and blood flow which will help the healing process accelerate while also soothing the skin and allowing it to moisturize and ready itself for the next session.

 Additional resources can be found when you subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek business training or guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly:gg

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