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Blisters, blisters, blisters...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Tom Lane, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    We see this question every few months on TB: "What should I do about my finger blisters?"

    Here's what Consumer Reports recommends: (you KNOW better than CR? Maybe... just show us your evidence)

    "If a small blister forms a few hours after your injury, leave it alone. That natural bandage helps guard against infection. Touching or puncturing the blister makes the burn more vulnerable to germs, even if it’s covered by a bandage. But if the blister is bigger than your thumbnail, go to an urgent care clinic or emergency room."

    Contrary opinions are very welcome... if they're supported with evidence; sorry, I'm just a hard ass that way; I want evidence, not your one-off story.
    longfinger likes this.
  2. This is good; a definitive answer to this question.

    Talkbass is a nice place, but I still think that things one reads here need to be weighed and measured based on personal trial and experience. For example, I had read once on TB that 'Ron Carter told me personally to pop my blisters with a safety pin and drain the fluid...' I took that as my own little scripture that I would refer to any time I encountered finger flare-up. How can something a random person writes on a forum about something Ron Carter allegedly said be wrong? And how can anyone who contradicts that be in the right?

    One night a few months ago after a gig I had a couple doozies on my RI and RM fingers. I really didn't feel like lancing them and enduring the resultant 2-3 days of pain that would be sure to follow. So I just sat there holding a cold beer against my sore doggies. That felt good. I did it for a couple more beers. The next day my fingers had apparently absorbed most of the fluid and I was able to practice (albeit a little gingerly) without too much pain.

    Ok, this is not exactly evidence, but it's not a contrary opinion, either. So +1 to what Tom said.
    Keith Rawlings and Tom Lane like this.
  3. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Well, this sounds like burn-induced blisters, (with DEAD Skin), not recurring, friction-induced blisters, that should eventually lead to a callous that will protect against future blisters.

    What would be done at the urgent care clinic or emergency room? Would they drain the blister and remove ALL the damaged/burned skin? (They seem primarily concerned with "infection", which is their job.)
    I have (my anecdotal) evidence (within the past year, most recently) that an immediate, minimally invasive draining of the fluid, followed by a few days of constant application of pressure - (using tape or a bandaid wrapped around the blister) - will encourage re-bonding of the skin, which is worth saving, as its removal would expose the "virgin" skin underneath and cause the whole callous-building process to start over from "square one". Ad Infinitum/Ad Nauseum.
    If the blister breaks catastrophically, or rips/tears, and that skin is TOO damaged, it may not be savable. I guess it depends upon the severity of the blister, and the condition of the skin.
    I Am Not A Doctor!
    Hell... I'm Barely a Musician!
  4. 4strngr25


    Jun 3, 2016
    When I got blisters when I first started. I would heat up a pin with a lighter to sterilize it and poke them to drain. When it dried up. I would start playing again. That was part of developing calluses. As long as I kept playing, and I played a lot that, as I remember, didn't happen after the first few times.
    GlenParks likes this.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    My take is that there are different skin types, and that the different skins types react differently to friction induced blisters. I have dry alligator skin, so I have my own system, but experience has taught me that students with a more acidic skin Ph have different issues when building calluses than I do.

    In general, I would argue that the body usually knows best how to heal itself, so when a blister starts to form and you still have to play through it, it's best to cover the area with cloth or paper tape - whichever simulates the natural friction of the finger on the string - and let the body heal the blister until it's safe to put fingers on strings again. Way back in the beginning when I was first building calluses, this was always the best method for me.
  6. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Much LESS heat, I believe. Maybe a burn actually "kills" the skin, while the heat generated by friction is much less damaging?
    Just spitballin' here.
  7. Typing with a nice new blister on the pad of my RI finger now. My technique is at a level where even after a period of two weeks of no gigging (and sporadic practice), I can play an hour or longer gig pulling my decently hard pizz attack without breaking skin.

    Have kept a few cold beers on it tonight whilst chatting with friends and listening to subsequent performances, then melted a couple ice cubes on it after returning home. We'll see how she looks/feels on the morrow.
  8. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    I don't have any callouses on the "pad" of any RH finger. I have nice durable callouses on the sides. Different technique I guess. I'm right-handed. My pad callouses are on the left hand.
  9. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    Unfortunately this happens to me if I haven’t played for the previous three weeks - I find practising is no substitute for gigs. If it’s a heavy gig ( most are) first and second RH fingers blister up. I leave well alone and three days later I can play again.
  10. Totally agree that practice is no substitute for gigs! It's more like keeping the plants watered, if you like.

    But when gigging regularly, once the callouses have developed, my daily practice routine helps keep the skin nice and tough. Those callouses also allow me to 'practice harder' using pizzicato.
  11. Any time the skin is broken, you run the risk of infection. The skin is a barrier, and blisters arise to protect it. There are nasty opportunistic bacteriums out there so avoid draining wet blisters if at all possible. Forget what Ron Carter said. He’s a bass player, not an MD.

    I pitched haybales forever as a kid and I work on cars so my hands are pretty grizzled. Luck of the draw.
  12. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Hi guys, quick help, please.

    I have been practicing a lot this past few weeks. My free time has been dedicated to playing the DB, only. No electric.

    I have been careful not to turn the calluses into blisters. Left hand is not a problem.

    Right hand, first finger has a solid callus not a problem.

    But the second finger is another story. I thought I had a good callus, but today I got a little carried away and I made a big blister.

    I don't want to stop playing, though. What do you do? Do you puncture the blister, or do you let it resolve naturally? I know that if I puncture it, it will hurt. But I also know that this skin is gone, no matter what. What do you do? Thank you.

  13. It won't hurt at all. I take a needle, heat it with a lighter, and puncture it. The water will flow out. Then I continue to play. It may not be the best solution (see first post), but sometimes it's the only solution.
    J_Bass likes this.
  14. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    That blister looks like a "bass-guitarist-playing-double-bass" blister. Not a bad thing, but I think you'll find that most accomplished bassists use the index finger much more than the middle, and more with the side of the finger than with the pad.
    My advice? Leave it alone and practice playing with the side of the index finger... or with the bow. After a couple of days, you should be mostly able to play with the middle finger again.
    J_Bass and TheDirtyLowDown like this.
  15. TheDirtyLowDown


    Mar 8, 2014
    I've tried both lancing blisters and draining them, and letting them reabsorb. In my experience there isn't much difference. So now I do everything I can to keep them from popping. I'll get blisters if I haven't played heavily for a while, or around holidays if I'm spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes, which softens up my hands.

    One thing I can recommend is to make a 'blister kit' in your gig bag. Mine contains an antibacterial creme and "New Skin Liquid Bandage" for immediate repairs, plus some medical tape if that doesn't hold out long enough. I've played a couple of gigs with taped right fingers. It's not optimal, obviously, and you'll hear a difference in your playing, but most people won't even notice.
  16. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Thank you. You prefer to puncture it? I have tried both ways, nothing seems to help to keep that skin. Maybe I'll puncture this one, for a change.

    That's absolutely right.

    My first finger is the main one, and the callus is on the right spot. On the corner. This one has a smaller callus on the corner, but today I got a little carried away and forgot about the position of the fingers.

    Thank you. What tape do you use, by the way?
    TheDirtyLowDown likes this.
  17. 210superair


    Sep 10, 2019
    When I first started playing, I was using metal strings and slapping pretty religiously in an outlaw country band. First gig, I had literal HOLES in my first two fingers by the end of the second set, lol. Blood all OVER my bass, it was pretty rad. I have a pic of it somewhere... Anyway, the bartender had some super glue. Coated my fingers a few times in the glue, and kept goin. It was terrible, and my fingers weren't the same for weeks!

    Haven't had one since. Switched to synth guts the next day, and real guts now. no mo metal for me....
    J_Bass likes this.
  18. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I always drain the blister so it doesn't tear in use and cause more injuries. Then I'll wash it and clean it (applying alcohol and/or ice if possible), then if I still need to play a gig on it, I'll place an appropriately trimmed tissue pad over it, and cover everything with an appropriately trimmed-and-shaped single layer of duct tape. After the gig I'll remove the duct tape and pad, re-wash and clean the injury and leave it uncovered to air dry. I'll probably also apply ice to it occasionally over the next couple of days to help it heal more quickly.

    I rarely get blisters on the double bass because I use a low-tension mixed set of synthetic strings. Because I also play other instruments, protecting my hands is one of my very highest priorities when setting up my double bass.

    In my experience, using cyanoacrylate (crazy glue, hot stuff, etc.) on an injury is problematic, it cracks in the injury and causes more irritation if not more injury.
    210superair and J_Bass like this.
  19. 210superair


    Sep 10, 2019
    Seconded! Lol....

    Did you guys know this is actually how CG was invented though? It was meant to be a way to quickly dress a badly bleeding battlefield wound. Meant to save a life though, not play a bass....

    Edit: That's kinda true, kinda not. Just did a quick google:
    A Sticky Situation: Super Glue in Warfare
    J_Bass and dhergert like this.
  20. TheDirtyLowDown


    Mar 8, 2014
    Johnson and Johnson Band-Aid Waterproof Tape is what I've used, and keep in my gig bag. It works!
    J_Bass and dhergert like this.

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