Fit to Sing

Vocal health is about mind and body as well as voice!

Whatever your style of singing and whatever your repertoire, you should take a holistic approach to your practicing and performing. Here are a few tried-and-tested tips for you to keep in mind at all times.

  1. Always warm up physically before you sing. In particular, stretch and loosen up your neck, shoulders, and upper back. This doesn’t have to take a long time but should be before your vocal warm-up. Repeat this after singing, to allow cooling down.
  2. Ensure your technique is sound – poor technical habits may lead to tension and muscular strain. We strongly recommend that you seek professional advice, whatever your level of experience.
  3. Check your posture when singing, using a mirror, or, better still, a video camera. Look at the overall balance of your body, and for signs of tension around your neck and shoulders. If you regularly sit to sing, use a chair that is as comfortable as possible, that supports your lower back and is at the right height for your body build.
  4. Where is your music? If on a stand, check the stand height and sight-lines, e.g. to your accompanist. If you are holding the music, feel its weight and consider a stand if it is heavy or bulky.
  5. Vision and hearing can affect your neck and upper body posture, have them checked periodically. If you need glasses or lenses to see the music or the conductor, use them!
  6. Plan your practice sessions to allow frequent short breaks in singing. The biggest risk factor for a breakdown in your vocal health is a sudden increase in the quantity or quality of practice, e.g. in the run-up to a concert or audition. If something starts to ache, stop and loosen up. Use a kitchen timer to remind you if a break is due – every 20 minutes or so.
  7. Your overall health, physical build, and voice type may make some repertoire more uncomfortable for you. Respect your limitations.
  8. If you have a cold or a sore throat, remember VOCAL REST AND HYDRATION. Vocal rest does not necessarily mean no singing: it means no shouting, no whispering, no force, and limit your phone calls. Hydration means water, not tea/coffee or alcohol! Also, avoid atmospheric pollutants such as cigarette smoke and over-heated or air-conditioned rooms.
  9. Your general lifestyle can affect your singing: make sure you are eating and sleeping properly.
  10. A mixture of regular exercise (e.g. swimming or sport) and relaxation will help maximize your potential and maintain your vocal health. Performing is stressful and tension can cause pain and stiffness. Find something that you enjoy, it’s more likely to help!
  11. Remember that you are a musical athlete and your performance depends on you taking good care of yourself. Think twice about attending a party or going to a noisy pub in the days before a concert. Watch out for accidents: take care of dangerous sports and DIY.
  12. There is a world outside music! Keep your hobbies and outside interests going to avoid getting over-focused on your singing.
  13. Record your own moment of singing, customize a musician’s bobblehead doll and place it on your bed, reminding you that you are a great musician, which will keep you motivated at all times.

PREVENTATIVE CARE ON THE ROAD

When you are on tour as a live musician (or indeed any other kind of performer), there are times when you don’t have the chance to go to the gym or keep up with good exercise routines. Here are some of the things you can do when you are on the road and in the air.

  1. Use the stairs rather than the lift, and walk up and down escalators rather than standing still.
  2. If you’re a musician with heavy instruments or equipment, carrying them will be a form of exercise. Make sure you’re doing it properly though! Bend at the knees when lifting, and wear straps to distribute the weight properly. Help your drummer or bassist with their gear, so you get the exercise and they get a break!
  3. If you need some thinking time, take a walk around the block –it clears your head and gets you some exercise.
  4. If you’re in an unfamiliar venue, take some time to check out what’s there and what’s not. There should be drinking water, at the very least. Consider organizing a healthier rider (a list of dietary/drink requirements).
  5. Opt for fruit and nuts rather than biscuits, crisps or pastries for backstage snacks. Try to drink more water and less coffee or tea and cut down on the sugary drinks.
  6. Try to get the management to sort out decent meals, either at the hotel or venue – or use your per diems wisely to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet.
  7. Do quick stretching throughout the day –it helps relieve stress and exercises your muscles.
  8. Persuade a fellow band member to be your activity buddy and arrange to exercise together; neither of you will want to let the other down. Go for runs together while on tour.
  9. Even if you’re not wanting to be super fit, you still need to keep healthy, so you can do various exercises in your hotel room and even a brisk 10-15 minute walk in the fresh air can help.
  10. Give yourself reasons to take regular breaks, say if you and/or your band members are just not getting that middle eight or fast refrain.
  11. Start wearing a pedometer. You’ll be surprised how motivated you can become to increase your daily step total. Aim for 10,000 steps – you’ll probably total those up simply by jumping around on stage!
  12. Issue a fitness challenge to another band such as the number of steps walked in a week.
  13. Make sure someone in the band (usually the manager) has health and safety responsibilities and makes sure that there is an adequately stocked first aid kit on the tour bus.
  14. Be sure to keep sufficiently hydrated when in an air-conditioned space – like a plane. This is especially important for singers, as the dehydrating effect of air-conditioning can make singing very difficult. Wrapping your throat up can also help prevent drying of the throat.
  15. While we’re talking about planes, take care not to force your voice against the noise of the engine, onboard equipment, etc. And don’t forget to keep your legs moving periodically, so you don’t develop blood clots which are potentially life-threatening. Some performers have been known to do exercises in the aisles! This can help with re-setting your body clock too.
  16. Time-zone changes can put considerable stresses on the body and fatigue can be a common problem. Try to get as much rest and rehydration as you can when travelling and re-adjust your body clock as quickly as you can. Flying a couple of days earlier for a gig at a distant venue would help counteract this problem. If you can’t fly in sooner and you’re just in for the gig and straight out again try to stay on ‘home-time’ by eating and sleeping at the times you would normally at home, if possible. You and your tour manager should plan your tour schedule in terms of sleep/body clock issues, in order to make it easier on yourself and the rest of the band.

Common Skin disorders You Should Know

Skin Cancer

Cancer is a condition where one type of cell grows without limit in a disorganized fashion, disrupting and replacing normal tissues and their functions, much like weeds overgrowing a garden. There are three main forms of skin cancer — Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. Basal Cell and Squamous Cell cancers are curable. Melanoma is also completely curable when detected early, but can be fatal if allowed to progress and spread. Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells in the skin, known as melanocytes. Normal melanocytes reside in the outer layer of the skin and produce the brown pigment melanin, which is responsible for the colour of our skin. Melanoma describes melanocytes that become cancerous, grow, and invade other tissues.

Sunburns can increase your chances of skin cancer so take precautions when exposed to high levels of sun.

If you notice a difference in colour in your skin or bumps make an appointment with a dermatologist or oncologist to get them checked out. A general practitioner will also be able to point you in the right direction. Seek help as soon as you notice something as cancers can grow and complicate extremely rapidly. A few days or weeks will make a difference.

Sunburn

Sunburns arise as a result of invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays hit the body and damage any cells exposed, including skin, hair, and eye cells. UV rays are emitted even when there is cloud cover so protection is necessary at all times.

Sun damage is visible as red, painful sunburns. Bad sunburns can lead to skin cancer later in life as well as wrinkles, freckles, age spots, dilated blood vessels, and general ageing of the skin.

Use a sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 15. SPF is a measure of what level of UV rays are absorbed by the sunscreen; the higher the SPF the more rays absorbed and thus, the higher level of protection. Always follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for reapplication throughout the day. Always wear sunglasses and a hat when outside.

* RFH has covered some but not all of the conditions that are likely to pop up on tour. For most of the information, we used MedlinePlus. MedlinePlus has a ton of information from very reputable sources and has tons of external links for more information. If you ever have a question it never hurts to call a doctor. Catching a condition early may mean preventing complications and saving thousands of dollars! Take care of yourself- there are thousands of fans across the country (and several band members) waiting to see you get on stage!

Had you got Vision Problems?

Refractive Errors

Also called: Farsightedness, Hyperopia, Myopia, Nearsightedness

Your cornea is the clear front part of your eye. It is like a window that controls and focuses the light coming into the eye. If your cornea has an irregular shape, the light does not focus properly. Everything looks blurry. This is a refractive error.

Four common refractive errors are

  • Myopia or nearsightedness – clear vision close up but blurry in the distance
  • Hyperopia, or farsightedness – clear vision in the distance but blurry close-up
  • Presbyopia – inability to focus close up as a result of ageing
  • Astigmatism – focus problems caused by the cornea

Glasses or contact lenses can usually correct refractive errors. Laser eye surgery may also be a possibility.

So if you notice a change in your vision- suddenly you cannot see the fans in the 10th row or that the FOH sound engineer is waving at you to stop noodling on your guitar during sound check, make an appointment to see an optometrist.

Are You Substance Abused?

Drug abuse

Also called: Substance abuse

Drug abuse is a serious public health problem that affects almost every community and family in some way. Each year drug abuse results in around 40 million serious illnesses or injuries among people in the United States. Abused drugs include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs

Drug abuse also plays a role in many major social problems, such as drugged driving, violence, stress and child abuse. Drug abuse can lead to homelessness, crime and missed work or problems with keeping a job. It harms unborn babies and destroys families. There are different types of treatment for drug abuse. But the best is to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

Drug overdose

The term “drug overdose” (or simply overdose or OD) describes the ingestion or application of a drug or other substance in quantities greater than are recommended or generally practised. An overdose is widely considered harmful and dangerous as it can result in death.

RFH sought out the community written advice of Wikipedia for drug overdoses because all of us have experienced someone OD’ing. We all know what it is and the warning signs of overdose. Throwing up blood, uncontrollable shaking, losing consciousness, and (scarily) stopping breathing all require immediate attention. Whether it was that kid down the hall who drank too much the first weekend of college or the band member who did too much coke, there has been a life-or-death situation in all of our lives.

IF YOU SEE OR EVEN THINK SOMEONE MAY HAVE OVERDOSED DO NOT WAIT TO CALL MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. DIAL 9-1-1. THREE DIGITS CAN SAVE A LIFE!

17 Interesting Tricks of the Body

  1. If your throat tickles, scratch your ear.
    When you were 9, playing your armpit was a cool trick. Now, as an adult, you can still appreciate a good body-based feat, but you’re more discriminating. Take that tickle in your throat; it’s not worth gagging over. Here’s a better way to scratch your itch: “When the nerves in the ear are stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm,” says Scott Schaffer, M.D., president of an ear, nose and throat speciality centre in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. “This spasm relieves the tickle.”
  2. Experience supersonic hearing!
    If you’re stuck chatting up a mumbler at a cocktail party, lean in with your right ear. It’s better than your left at following the rapid rhythms of speech, according to researchers at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to identify that song playing softly in the elevator, turn your left ear toward the sound. The left ear is better at picking up music tones.
  3. Feel no pain!
    German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain-conducting structures of the spinal cord.
  4. Clear your stuffed nose!Forget Sudafed. An easier, quicker, and cheaper way to relieve sinus pressure is by alternately thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you’ll feel your sinuses start to drain.
  5. Fight fire without water!
    Worried those wings will repeat on you tonight? “Sleep on your left side,” says Anthony A. Star-poll, M.D., a New York City gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. Studies have shown that patients who sleep on their left sides are less likely to suffer from acid reflux. The oesophagus and stomach connect at an angle. When you sleep on your right, the stomach is higher than the oesophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you’re on your left, the stomach is lower than the oesophagus, so gravity’s in your favour.
  6. Cure your toothache without opening your mouth!
    Just rub ice on the back of your hand, on the V-shaped webbed area between your thumb and index finger. A Canadian study found that this technique reduces toothache pain by as much as 50 per cent compared with using no ice. The nerve pathways at the base of that V stimulate an area of the brain that blocks pain signals from the face and hands.
  7. Make burns disappear!
    When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand. Ice will relieve your pain more quickly, Dr DeStefano says, but since the natural method brings the burned skin back to a normal temperature, the skin is less likely to blister.
  8. Stop the world from spinning!
    One too many drinks left you dizzy? Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance—the cupula—floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. “As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises,” says Dr Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.
  9. Unstitch your side!
    If you’re like most people, when you run, you exhale as your right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on your liver (which lives on your right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men. The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground.
  10. Stanch blood with a single finger!
    Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed—if you don’t mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums—just behind that small dent below your nose—and press against it, hard. “Most bleeds come from the front of the septum, the cartilage wall that divides the nose,” says Peter Desmarais, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Entabeni Hospital, in Durban, South Africa. “Pressing here helps stop them.”
  11.  Make your heart stand still!
    Trying to quell first-date jitters? Blow on your thumb. The vagus nerve, which governs heart rate, can be controlled through breathing, says Ben Abo, an emergency medical-services specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. It’ll get your heart rate back to normal.
  12. Thaw your brain!
    Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. “Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too,” says Abo. “In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache.” The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.
  13. Prevent near-sightedness!
    Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. “It’s usually caused by near-point stress.” In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles—like the eyes—into relaxing as well.
  14. Wake the dead!
    If your hand falls asleep while you’re driving or sitting in an odd position, rock your head from side to side. It’ll painlessly banish your pins and needles in less than a minute, says Dr DeStefano. A tingly hand or arm is often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in your neck; loosening your neck muscles releases the pressure. Compressed nerves lower in the body govern the feet, so don’t let your sleeping dogs lie. Stand up and walk around.
  15. Impress your friends!
    Next time you’re at a party, try this trick: Have a person hold one arm straight out to the side, palm down, and instruct him to maintain this position. Then place two fingers on his wrist and push down. He’ll resist. Now have him put one foot on a surface that’s a half inch higher (a few magazines) and repeat. This time his arm will fold like a house of cards. By misaligning his hips, you’ve offset his spine, says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness, in Santa Clarita, California. Your brain senses that the spine is vulnerable, so it shuts down the body’s ability to resist.
  16. Breathe underwater!
    If you’re dying to retrieve that quarter from the bottom of the pool, take several short breaths first—essentially, hyperventilate. When you’re underwater, it’s not a lack of oxygen that makes you desperate for a breath; it’s the buildup of carbon dioxide, which makes your blood acidic, which signals your brain that somethin’ ain’t right. “When you hyperventilate, the influx of oxygen lowers blood acidity,” says Jonathan Armbruster, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Auburn University. “This tricks your brain into thinking it has more oxygen.” It’ll buy you up to 10 seconds.
  17. Read minds!
    Your own! “If you’re giving a speech the next day, review it before falling asleep,” says Candi Heimgartner, an instructor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho. Since most memory consolidation happens during sleep, anything you read right before bed is more likely to be encoded as long-term memory.

Happy Holidays!

– Kristina

Common Musculoskeletal Disorders

Sprains and Strains

A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. Ligaments are tissues that connect bones at a joint. Falling, twisting, or getting hit can all cause a sprain. Ankle and wrist sprains are common. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising and being unable to move your joint. You might feel a pop or tear when the injury happens.

A strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. Tendons are tissues that connect muscle to bone. Twisting or pulling these tissues can cause a strain. Strains can happen suddenly or develop over time. Back and hamstring muscle strains are common. Many people get strains playing sports (and also being a rockin’ musician! –Ed). Symptoms include pain, muscle spasms, swelling and trouble moving the muscle.

At first, treatment of both sprains and strains usually involves resting the injured area, icing it, wearing a bandage or device that compresses the area, and medicines. Later treatment might include exercise and physical therapy.

If rest and ice do not improve the sprain or strain seek medical attention as special exercise and physical therapy may be needed to ensure a full recovery.

Fractured and Broken Bones

A fracture is a break, usually in a bone. If the broken bone punctures the skin, it is called an open or compound fracture. Fractures commonly happen because of car accidents, falls or sports injuries (again, also because of over-rocking’-out). Another cause is osteoporosis, which causes weakening of the bones. Overuse can cause stress fractures, which are very small cracks in the bone.

Symptoms of a fracture are:

  • Out-of-place or misshapen limb or joint
  • Swelling, bruising or bleeding
  • Intense pain
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Limited mobility or inability to move a limb

You need to get medical care right away for any fracture. You may need to wear a cast or splint. Sometimes you need surgery to put in plates, pins or screws to keep the bone in place.

Health Insurance in America

What is unique in the world about the U.S. health care system is the dominance of the private element over the public element. In public programs, the United States offers Medicare and Medicaid services. The private element offers employer-sponsored and private non-group insurance. Employment-based health insurance continues to be the predominant source of coverage for the non-elderly population. Almost two-thirds (62.7%) of the non-elderly population had employment-based health insurance in 2005. Of the total population of people with health insurance, 7% of the population purchases individual plans. The services available through privately owned insurance are similar to those provided through employers; average premiums are generally somewhat higher than those for employer-sponsored coverage but vary by age and occupations. Deductibles and other cost-sharing (a portion of service cost not covered by the plan) are also higher, on average. Musicians and artists are usually generalized as an “at-risk” population. The “at risk” assessment is based on legitimate occupational health risks mentioned before. Another reason insurance companies do not insure artists is because of biases created by the hypothesized decadence of art culture.

Private health insurance plans vary greatly in their benefits to customers. More expensive plans will give the customer the more choice. Being able to choose your doctors is vital with regards to one’s health. One of the major initiatives of ROCK FOR HEALTH is giving the musicians a choice. ROCK FOR HEALTH customers deserves top medical care for the dangerous health risks on tour.

A private health insurance policy is a basic agreement between a customer and the insurance company. The insurance companies manage the customer’s care and act as an intermediary between them and the medical doctor. The more a customer pays the better insurance he or she will have. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) –a national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance coverage – claims that managed care is nearly everywhere in America. Nearly 90% of insured Americans are now enrolled in plans with some form of managed care.

Two major Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs). Both of the major MCOs have advantages and disadvantages over each other.

The basic difference between HMOs and PPOs is the cost. HMOs prevent large out-of-pocket expenses for its customers, while with PPOs, the customers will have to pay higher deductibles and will pay a lot of out-of-pocket expenses. The concept of ‘you get what you pay for’ applies to the difference between HMOs and PPOs. In the HMO system, customers are restricted within a certain network of doctors stated within the insurance agreement. The HMO customer is given a primary physician, who is responsible to act as a general doctor for most injuries and diseases. If the primary doctor cannot treat their patient then the doctors will refer their patient to other doctors within a limited network. The customer cannot step outside the network unless approved by the primary physician and it is sometimes difficult finding certain speciality doctors within the network. In a PPO, the customer has access to a bigger network of doctors and they do not need the authorization to seek other doctors outside the larger network. In the PPO system, doctors have agreements with the insurance companies for providing discounted services to insurance companies clients. Customers are not limited to the doctors within the PPO network and have the ability to seek the best care and top specialists in America. The ability to go directly to a specialist is beneficial to customers because they receive immediate care by specialists and do not need to wait for primary physician referrals.

The PPO system tends to have better doctors within the network because the doctors within the network do not want to accept the minimum payments that HMOs companies offer. An HMO system works by pre-paying the doctors for providing care to their clients. This idea of pre-payment is called capitation and is defined as a specified dollar amount a physician gets, for a given time period, to take care of the medical needs of a specified group of people. The amount the doctor gets for a patient is a fixed monthly payment and does not increase on the patients’ unknown visits. This means that if a patient needs a considerable amount of care, and the worth exceeds the fixed monthly amount, then the money could come from the doctor’s budget instead of the insurance companies. Instead of capitation, PPOs uses a fee-for-service method. The fee-for-service method usually attracts better doctors because the payment is guaranteed and usually more.