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Blisters: pop 'em or leave 'em alone?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Damon Rondeau, May 27, 2003.

  1. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Somewhat in line with the matter our intrepid moderator Mr. FitzGeraldo raised a week or so ago, whaddya you guys do with minor blister problems? I'm not talking products of serious bodily abuse here -- just your common bass player's blister.

    I'm asking cuz it happens to me from time to time, even though I've been playing a long time and have the callouses to prove it. Even so, I been playing a little more, or a little harder, or something, over the last week or so, and now I've got a minor blister on my right hand index finger. Just a little fluid under that tough "don't bogart that j**nt" skin.

    My inclination is to drain it, so today's playing proceeds normally. But I think if you don't drain it, the callous comes back a little tougher.

    So, what do you guys do?

    ps Chris, hope your finger's back in shape!
  2. I'm a popper from the bad old days, when amps weren't used (or invented).
    Sterile pin into the far side (last part to be on the string), drain it. I enlarge the hole a bit and periodically lift the skin so air gets to the raw skin underneath.
    Grisly, but I've gotten through some awful situations this way.
    I learned all this from Buell Neidlinger. Anybody remember him? Played with Cecil Taylor, quit jazz, worked in Houston Symphony. Current whereabouts unknown.
    Amps don't sound that great, but they prevent this stuff.
  3. Don, is this the same guy who doubles with cello?

  4. Kasper


    Feb 11, 2000
    I pop them. It relieves the pressure of the liquid against the skin underneath. It help to dry out the "wound". I just noticed that the skin gets hard again after popping. When you play on with popped blisters you will start growing callus immediately again. When you don't pop the skin under the callus will get less pressure so it won't produce callus. Also keeping the moisture inside your skin will make the the skin under the blister soft and wet, which is bad for callus.

    That 'll be all thank you.
  5. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Its ok to pop them, but I warn you to use some caution. The area under a blister is a breeding ground for bacteria. Keep the area as clean and dry as possible for a couple of days to allow the dermal cells to "repair" the damage to the area.

  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The other option is to cover them with something tough enough to be used as a playing surface until they harden on their own. Once you have a blister, playing on it will only make it worse. Once they harden, a pedicure block (the foam kind) can be used as a shaping tool to create the right surface to play with. Good luck.
  7. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I popped them and put the thickest athletic tape I could find on them for a big concert.

    worked ok.

    popped with Don's method above and a little alcohol. (rubbing not drinking)
  8. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Blisters are mearly a friction burn of sorts. Its the bodies' inflammatory response. While its ok to pop them, a covering is essential to prevent further injury. The misconception is that the skin on top of the blister makes the callous, in actualty it doesnt. This skin will eventually slough off or peel away. The callous is formed by the new skin underneath that replaces it. In other words, a callous is formed from the inside out.

  9. One trick I saw a while back is if you're starting to get a blister and you have to keep playing, put a thin layer of super glue on the playing surface. It makes sort of a temporary callous. I use it on the side of my thumb sometimes, because I can never seem to build up a very good callous there. I think my thumb is to bony or something. :rolleyes:
  10. To finish the ugly scene I described about popping, again as instructed by Buell Neidlinger:
    First of all sterilize the pin before popping. After popping, with small sharp scissors, enlarge the hole and get some peroxide in there. Periodically, lift the blister skin to keep allowing air to get underneath. Periodic squirts of peroxide. Enlarge the hole some more. The new skin hardens quicker than you'd expect.
    Final gross-out: I have had to do this on a break between sets and go back up to play. I have no explanation why, but altough the pain of playing on the raw skin is at first intense, after 10 minutes it isn't so bad. I know I did some compensating, I was still on the raw meat.
    I hate amps, but as I relive this s--t, they're starting to sound better.
    Do not take this as an argument with Mike. I, and other bassists, subordinated medical sense to survive the gig.
  11. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Your point is no argument, you do what you must to get through. It takes 24-48 hours for bacteria to form a colony of any significance. So your method is safe for the few hours that it may take to get through the gig. You peroxide trick is good as well, but you may only need to do it once then leave it alone, the dermal layer underneath is sufficient protection as long as the surface is kept clean. Should any redness, unusual swelling or pain develop, an OTC triple antibiotic ointment will take care of it.

  12. One thing I learned from years of bike racing and strawberries is that hydrogen peroxide kills tender skin cells along with bacteria. Alcohol and triple antibiotic usually promotes faster healing.
    My old standby is tincture of benzoin. Applied to a lanced blister, it helps the skin on top stay longer, allowing the skin underneath to heal more. It can keep blisters from erupting to where they need lancing. Applied before long, hard playing, it protects against blisters and toughens the skin.
  13. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Actually Pete it doesnt kill skin cells, it only dries it out. Alcohol really doesnt have any antimicrobial effects unless you can maintain constant contact for about an hour. And it burns like hell.

    Tincture of benzoin is an adhesive we use to help hold tape in place on a moist surface, such as an endotracheal tubeon a patients face. I am not sure of any protection from blisters, but if it works for you I dont see any real risk involved, other than funny colored finger tips.

  14. koricancowboy


    Jun 10, 2003
    Buell is currently in Western Washington State. I can only think he is living a peaceful and wonderful life. He occasionally comes to Seattle to play or for god knows what other reasons, but just thought you might want to know.:D
  15. I do, and thank you. Buell is an amazing talent. Played with Cecil Taylor, Ornette, Jackie McLean, Philly Joe, and many others, but also the Houston Symphony, Boston Pops and more. He roomed with a drummer friend. I have rarely seen such dedication to mastering an instrument.
  16. My experience with benzoin was always a total disaster. While apparently toughening the skin, I believe it increased friction, thereby causing a blister anyway, only down deeper, where it was impossible to deal with it. When it finally came up, it was bloody awful.
  17. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    I can see that. Its an adhesive, thereby making it harder to pull across the strings, And it doest allow the natural ois in the skin to come out. On the inside I would guess it acts as an insulator keeping more heat in.

  18. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    Are the type of blisters you get with athletes caused by the same reasons or is it more do to the funus? Just curious
  19. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Funus? Thats latin for a funeral isnt it?

  20. Dondi


    May 3, 2003
    I am playing for many years and I'd say its been at least 5 years sinced I caused a blister to grow out of control. What I am most concerned about is preserving the toughened skin that you worked to grow.
    If I can cover up the thing with tape to get through the gig, I then try my best NOT to pop the blister at all. I have had very good luck with the skin kind of reattaching on its own. I think this has to do with the fact that when you drain the blister you remove the moisture that feeds the tissue and then the thing must fall off eventally. Then you have to deal with gradually regrowing the calloused skin all over again from the nice soft pink skin thats underneath the blister. If you play with any frequency, you know how hard that is to accomplish.
    After a few days, you will see how the "water" in the blister has reabsorbed and the skin is like one again. You just may have to lay off much practice for two or three days. Use it as an excuse to get your bowing chops better developed.
    This process is an excercise in self-control, but well worth it. You'll be back to normal in a few days. I hope my rather wordy description makes sense, ladies and gents. I did my best.