Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.

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Home » Resources » Health » A Handy Guide to Hand Care


A Handy Guide to Hand Care

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Editor’s Note: This article uses research from a variety of medical sources. The AFM does not endorse the advice given in this article and urges working musicians to seek professional medical advice when dealing with physical complaints.

Practically all musicians use their hands to play, yet despite the importance of the appendages to the working lives of musicians there is surprisingly little information available about how to take proper care of them. Two particular areas tend to be of particular interest to musicians: blisters and calluses.

First Aid for Blisters

Blisters are small, raised lesions in which fluid collects under the skin. Friction is a common cause of blisters, so it is no surprise that many musicians, from drummers to guitarists and clarinet players work up blisters on their hands. Although relatively minor injuries, blisters can cause enough pain and discomfort to limit playing. What, if anything, should be done?

The Mayo Clinic recommends that if a blister isn’t too painful, you should do everything possible to keep it intact. The skin that covers the blister provides a natural barrier to bacteria and decreases the risk of infection. A small blister can be covered with an adhesive bandage, and a larger one should be covered with porous, plastic-coated gauze pad that absorbs moisture and allows the skin to breathe.

Blisters usually heal quickly once pressure has been relieved and should not be punctured unless they are painful enough to prevent you from using your hands or playing your instrument.

If you have diabetes, poor circulation, blisters not caused by friction, or other symptoms you should call your doctor before attempting any first-aid measures. Also, any time you have an open sore be sure to check that your tetanus injections are up to date.

To relieve severe blister pain, drain the fluid while leaving the overlying protective skin intact. Here’s how:

Wash your hands, including the blister area, with soap and water.

Swab the blister with an antiseptic.

Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.

Puncture the blister in several spots near its edge, keeping the overlying skin intact.

Let the fluid drain out.

Reapply antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover it with a bandage.

Watch for signs of infection (pus, redness, increased pain, or warmth). Call your doctor at the first indication.

If any dead skin eventually comes off, apply additional antibiotic ointment and a fresh bandage. Again, monitor for any signs of infections and phone your doctor immediately at the first indication that there may be a problem.
Calluses Are Helpful

For musicians, calluses are often a more positive occurrence. They are areas of thick, hardened, dead skin that have formed a protective layer due to repeated pressure, friction, or injury. They may appear grayish or yellowish, and can be less sensitive to touch than surrounding skin.

Calluses are normal and, in some cases, helpful to musicians. They only pose a problem when they are large enough to cause pain. Calluses often form at the base of the fingers and other locations that have frequent contact with objects, such as musical instruments.

They are a natural part of playing many instruments. String players in general develop calluses on the tips of their left hand fingers and cellists may even have some on their left thumb, which they use to play in the high register; and depending on technique, “drummer’s digit” is common on the left ring finger.

The best way to maintain your calluses is by regular playing. Always try to keep them dry and avoid playing your instrument with wet hands. Calluses do peel off from time to time. This is a natural part of the skin’s renewing process. Keep an eye on your calluses as some people are prone to excessive thickening and cracking skin and should see their doctor if this occurs.

If you have an unwanted callus, that may or may not interfere with your playing, you have several treatment options:

If you have diabetes or other circulatory problems, visit your doctor. A health professional can probably pare or trim the callus during an office visit.

Otherwise, you can reduce the size of the callus by soaking it in warm water and then using a pumice stone to lightly wear away the dead skin. Use caution because removing too much skin could cause bleeding or infection. Never attempt to cut the callus.

Alternatively, you could use nonprescription salicylic acid to soften the callus, then rub it off with a pumice stone. However, this is a more aggressive approach. The acid could damage surrounding skin and some health professionals caution against it.

For additional information on blisters, calluses, and other hand injuries talk to your physician or visit these useful health-related websites: www.mayoclinic.com, www.health24.com, or www.healthline.com.







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