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That one @#&$*# callous


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I have played guitar for 50+ years and have always maintained industrial strength callouses on my fretting fingertips. Never had any issues with soreness, etc. (well maybe when I first started).

Anyway, the callous on my middle finger is beginning to really bother me. It is like it’s too thick and when I play chords up the neck, it hurts to engage that fingertip with enough pressure to achieve a full, clean chord.

I have some of the emery boards of various grits, and I “sand down” the offending callous regularly, but it is almost like the callous goes into the flesh as deep as it protrudes above the surface. I can get it pretty flat to the touch, but it still hurts when I put pressure on it to play certain chords.

Just wondering if any of you have dealt with this. It just started over the last year or so, so I’m a bit flummoxed by the issue.

Thanks for any suggestions you might offer.


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Bummer. Try massaging it to a noticeably softer lump, as it might be scar tissue underneath. You might have to break it up some. Maybe do this under warm water. Vitamin E salve too, but seek out the pricey one. Hemp oil/salve? Hey, if it doesn't work you can dump it in your oatmeal and catch a buzz.

Edited by jedzep
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Does it feel like a sliver when you put pressure on it?

I had something similar happen to me. I had been excessively practicing some alternate chord shapes and transitions. I would have sworn that I had a metal sliver in the tip of my middle finger. I started to suspect my strings or frets. Was there a burr that found its way into my finger?

I didn't see anything but it felt just like it. After some research, I believe it it was a minor form of nerve damage. It took a few days but the pain did go away.

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I hire a pair of Japanese Geisha girls to come over once a week, to gently rub my hands and callouses with Shunga Sakura massage oil.

Akiyo does my fretting hand, while Keiki specializes in tending to the strumming/plucking hand.


This works great, and my fingertips are always supple and ready to play guitar.


The wife doesn't like it one bit, but then again, I never complain that she hired a hunky young pool boy last year.

(And we don't even have a swimming pool.)







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I found this online, and make no representations as to whether or not it is appropriate for your situation:


"Callused skin buildup on the fingers often results from repetitive hand actions like playing musical instruments, crocheting or knitting, and sports, such as gymnastics. A very thick finger callus can separate from the live skin beneath and and become painful. This may result in a fluid-filled blister or in the callus pulling off of the skin entirely. A far gentler way to remove a finger callus is to soak it in warm water, abrade it gently and gradually, and apply some kind of moisturizer to soften it over time.


Soaking the finger callus should be the first step in any removal attempt. This softens the dead skin of the callus, generally making it easier to remove. The heat may also turn the callused skin white, making it easier to see. The water should be as warm as one can tolerate, but by no means hot enough to harm the skin or cause blisters. Some people like to add Epsom salts to the water to further condition the skin, but this is not necessary.


After soaking for about five minutes, one should be able to see the finger callus clearly. Gently rubbing it with a pumice stone or exfoliating body scrub should loosen and begin to scrape away small flakes of the hardened skin. If the rubbing begins to hurt, stop this action. Pain usually means the live skin under the finger callus is being rasped, which can leave the area very tender and sore. Thin calluses don’t require as much sanding as thicker ones.


Gently drying with a soft, clean towel prepares it for further treatment. Typically, the next step is to apply a moisturizer to the area. Ordinary body lotion works well, but may sting, particularly with sensitive skin. Other options include cocoa butter and alcohol-free aloe vera moisturizer. Lotions infused with vitamin E often work well because the nutrient helps the skin heal quickly, while the lotion keeps the skin hydrated.


A thick finger callus may require several sessions for complete removal. One should space these sessions at least 24 hours apart to give one’s hands a chance to recover slightly. Thinner calluses, such as those from constant use of a pen, may require only one session for removal. Regular moisturizing should keep one’s hands soft and may help keep a finger callus from coming back."


Calluses generally build on the fingers for protection. If one place on the fingers is constantly rubbed or abused, a callus is likely to form there. Moisturizing regularly also protects the hands by keeping the skin soft, so it gives against the repetitive activity instead of grinding against it. Even if calluses do form, moisturized hands often develop much thinner calluses than dry ones."

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Thank you all so much for the suggestions and comments. Guess I’ve got some decisions to make and some work to do. Laying off now during the holidays is probably a good thing. Then, we’ll see what’s next. I’m thinking tuba.

Merry Christmas.Roger

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You can always tune to open E, whip out the Coricidin bottle, and lay it on your lap. A few weeks is a long fast.


I second this idea... or some sort of dedication to the slide for the next couple weeks. Give your hand time to heal, but also maybe allow you to discover a little magic with a new technique. Best of luck and happy holidays!

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