Sweaty Hands, Part 3- the final chapter?
What worked- and what Didn’t
Sometimes, in the pole community, someone will say: “yes, when I first started poling, I had sweaty hands too! It was mostly because of nervousness and once my grip strength improved and I got more confident, my sweating went away!”
Well, nearly 10 years after starting pole, and still having sweaty hands, I think it’s safe to say: that may be the case for some. But not for all. And certainly not for me. I have posted a few times on the blog about products for sweaty hands, but this blog is to talk about my personal experiences and where I am now… which is a way better place!
My whole life, I’ve always had freezing cold feet- because they’re usually very slightly clammy and sweaty all the time. My hands too. When I first started pole dancing, I didn’t realize how much of a handicap it was because I simply didn’t realize that my hands and my grip wasn’t just like everyone else’s. Then we started getting into flying spins and one-handed spins and I was like uhhhh. This isn’t working. So, I went to the store and bought climbing chalk (which was all that existed at that time). And it helped! But I would sweat through that in about 45 seconds. When I was doing an entire song-long freestyle, I would only ever do the safest tricks I had, with points of contact other than hands ideally, because I knew my grip would fail.
A few years into pole dancing, I finally found antiperspirants like Tite Grip (see blog post here) which changed my pole life for the better. But, with the amount my hands sweated, I found that I had to apply many layers, starting an hour before I was meant to pole, and I still had to layer Dry Hands and other grip aids on top. I would only have about 30 minutes of feeling pretty comfortable with my grip. So, it wasn’t an ideal solution. And as I started working more on tricks that relied exclusively on hand grip, it was becoming more important to my safety to have confidence in my grip.
Around this time, I was actually getting some traction and interest in the blog in a real way, and I started touring and teaching workshops. Now-it’s really really hard to teach for multiple hours straight with no grip, so I started exploring topical prescription strength antiperspirant applied to the hands every night. With the amount my hands sweat, the improvement was only nominal and it dried my hands out so much that they cracked and callus management became really difficult. So then I tried Botox in the hands as a treatment method (see blog post here). It worked really well (though it didn’t stop the sweating completely), and thankfully my insurance covered it, but it was really painful, and I felt reduction in my grip strength. The more that I had the procedure done, the shorter the treatment seemed to last, and while I waited 6 months for the first re-application, towards the end I was having to go every 2-3 months to repeat the treatment and it was dozens of injections in each hand. Also, I hate hate hate needles. It just wasn’t the right solution for me and the benefits of the procedure were outweighed by all the negatives. But, when I was getting the Botox, I found my pole work progressed faster than it ever did, just by virtue of not being limited by the sweaty hands. Combos and hand grip work that had been out of my reach before were now accessible to me, especially since I didn’t need to reapply grip aid every pass. I grew a lot as a pole dancer then.
For a period, work intervened with pole and I set my pole shoes largely aside. I focused on my career and only recently have I begun to reap the fruits of those efforts: in July, I found myself in a job with work-life balance, where could say goodbye to the crazy travel and the late nights and finally focus on myself a bit. And so, of course, I’ve found myself immersing myself back into pole! This time around, I even have an apartment roomy enough to have a home pole (and in NYC, that’s quite the feat!) in a dedicated space. I can hit up evening classes without worrying about a meeting running late. I have weekends back! But then, I came up against the time-old problem of: MY #UCKING SWEATY HANDS!
Last ditch efforts
So I turned to a treatment that I passed over for all these years: Iontophoresis. For this procedure, you put your hands (or afflicted body parts) into a shallow water bath. Within each water path is a metal plate that is electrified with a low level current. You can adjust the strength and length of the treatment but you use plain tap water in the trays. You do this multiple times, and have to keep doing it. Each treatment session is about 20 minutes in length. I had heard such conflicting reports about whether or not it was even worthwhile, and I had heard it hurt a lot. And doctors that I spoke to, dermatologists, all universally wrote it off as a sham. But, a desperate girl does her research again, and finds interestingly, that two devices were recently approved for use in the US market by the FDA. Well, if they’re FDA approved as medical devices, they can’t be all malarkey, can they? It seems now that the efficacy of Iontophotoresis is now accepts as proven but the mechanisms by which it actually works aren’t understood. While this would typically make me pause, I did more research and couldn’t find any information about the treatment being harmful or irreversible so I decided to try it.
I started with the MD-2 Unit from RA Fischer. They were first to market in the US as FDA approved. I had to get a prescription from my doctor to send to them, which was easy as I had already a long patient history of trying everything under the sun except for surgery and oral medications (which have a loooot of side effects). The cost of the unit is $975, or $150/month for 7 months. My insurance didn’t cover this, but my flexible spending account for health expenses did, as long as I provided a receipt and evidence that this was a device my doctor had written me a prescription for. I ended up renting as I wasn’t sure it would work.
I used the unit for about a month. I started with their prescribed treatment plan of treatment sessions on days 1, 3, 5, and 9 of the month but found that didn’t have any discernable effect, so based on online commenters that I found, and their success stories, I did every other day until I found that my hands were sweating significantly less. After that, I only needed to repeat the treatment once or twice a week to maintain the level of non-sweat that I’d reached. The treatment is boring: you have to sit there with your hands in the trays so you’re not able to do much. I found it was a good time to catch up on my recorded TV shows, using a thick marker between my toes to operate the remote
The treatment itself kind of sucked. I did the highest mode pre-programmed on the device, for 20 minutes each time. As the machine ramped up, it felt first like my hands were super super cold and then I came inside and they warmed up and got and prickly, then it felt like I had sat on my hands for hours and then released them and it was the most asleep they had ever been and they were waking up and it was pins and needles almost painfully. That was the entire time the treatment was going on. The device also switches electrical current polarity between the two plates and pans periodically during the session, and when it’s switching the sensation is way more intense. It also hurts like a mofo if you accidentally lift your hand out of the water, you get zapped pretty hard.
While I was on month 2 of the rental, I realized that Hidrex was FDA approved as well. I ordered a DVP-1000 as well, intending to replace the MD-2 as the Hidrex is much smaller, compact, and easier to travel with. I travel with carry-on bags only and the MD-2 took up half my suitcase! Which then sucked because I couldn’t continue treatments on the road. Before I signed up to get a Hidrex though, I made sure to reach out to them and talk to them about being slightly flexible on the timing of payments as I was juggling my flex spending account limits.
Having compared the two, the Hidrex is much sleeker and easier to operate. It feels more like you’re using a modern medical device rather than an archaic self-electrocution system. The Hidrex also has a way less intense sensation and has an electronic trigger to turn off the current flow if it feels you remove a hand, so you don’t get zapped. It’s nowhere near the discomfort level of the MD-2, so if you have low pain thresholds that is definitely something to consider. It’s much more comfortable to use and there’s more controls over the intensity and wavelength of the treatment current. They also have an 8-week money-back guarantee.
Here are some comparison photos of the two devices so you can see what the set up is like:
The carrying cases with steel plates and hand towels (provided). The Hidrex is the smaller kit on the right.
And here is the Hidrex unit, set up to deliver a treatment. The hand towels go on top of the plates and you pour water into the trays just to cover the sides of your fingers, not over the tops of your hands. The plates connect to the unit with red and black cords and then you plug the unit in.
If you have any questions about Iontophotoresis, feel free to ask! I’m not an expert by any means but I am happy to share what I know.
With the maintenance treatments, I find that I can apply one single layer of Tite grip 30 minutes before pole, and be fine for a multiple-hour session. I’ll keep you posted as I spend more time with the machines and my pole life and see how things go!