A Handy Guide For Musicians
3 March 2017
Capable of producing the most sublime sounds, a musicians hands are also susceptible to a great deal of strain and pain, largely due to the repetitive stress that is placed on certain muscles or tendons depending on the demands of their particular instrument. In 1887, one of Queen Victorias preferred physicians, George Vivian Poore published in the British Medical Journal the first major study in to conditions that affect the hands and arms of musicians.
An overuse injury will be experienced as discomfort leading to pain, lack of flexibility, fatigue of the affected hand and, eventually, loss of fine motor control. At first these symptoms may be present only when playing, but eventually they will start to affect the musician at all times. The impact of developing this type of injury extends far beyond the affected limb; just like a top-flight athlete, a professional musicians career and livelihood can be significantly damaged and they may even be forced to abandon a discipline they love.
Common overuse injuries that affect musicians include:
Guitar Wrist Pain: General Recommendations From The Internet
First, lets go over the usual recommendations that you can find on the internet .
Note: dont follow these blindly.
1. Rest. Most of the time a full stop is recommended for at least 1-2 weeks until the pain goes away.
Whats wrong with it: Resting does nothing to solve the problem, it simply postpones it if you start playing again, your symptoms will most likely return. And you will be wondering about whether you won 2 weeks, or lost 2 weeks. Probably the latter.
So heres a better idea: reduce the amount of guitar practice you do by about 50%, and depending on the severity of your symptoms, skip the more technical stuff that strains your hands the most. Except for serious acute cases , theres no need to completely put down the guitar. We just need to back off a bit so that our body has a chance to regenerate .
2. Ice. The good old icing can be very beneficial when our goal is to bring down inflammation , but people recommend it without even mentioning what is it good for
Ice, or more precisely cold, is a vasoconstrictor, in other words, it constricts the blood vessels. This forces out excess fluids from the area and can improve circulation to a degree. But excess fluids are only present when the area is inflamed! So theres no point in icing if all you have is joint or muscle pain, or a nerve-related problem like tingling, or numbness, and so on .
If anything, you should do the opposite, strenghtening the extensor muscles on the outside of the forearm.
Mild Stage Carpal Tunnel
Symptoms of carpal tunnel from guitar playing begin to show up in the mild stage.Unfortunately, this is when patients should do something about it, but they usually don’t.
When caught and treated in this stage, mild symptoms will resolve 50% of the time with simple rest and some night bracing. But in cases where mild symptoms are ignored, they willalmost certainly worsen.
During themild stage,pain, numbness, and tingling are only just beginning. They creep up extremely slowly. In fact, many people dont even notice a problem unless theyre thinking about it.
Also in the beginning, there’s usually a “stress delay” when the symptoms show up. In other words, some people might feel the symptoms immediately after playing. Other times symptoms show up a few hours after playing, perhaps while holding a steering wheel or a phone.
In almost every case, initial symptoms will occur at night while you’re trying to sleep. Many say they have to wake up and shake out a numb hand or rub painful fingers.
Is Piano Bad For Your Hands
While carpal tunnel is a serious injury that can be associated with piano playing and other keyboarding activities, it does not necessarily mean that piano is bad for your hands. The piano is actually good for your hands if played properly and with moderation. Even those playing at a professional level have to monitor their practice and develop good habits and techniques to prevent injuries.
The piano could be bad for your hands if its not played properly. This includes a bad technique that can eventually lead to pain in the wrist and fingers. If you ever feel low circulation or numbness in the hands, then it means something is wrong. Those symptoms are usually a sign of poor technique or over the practice. Pushing those feelings too far can lead to carpal tunnel.
When playing the piano you should be monitoring for the following conditions:
- Tingling in the fingers
- Temperature drop int he hands
- Stiffness in the fingers
- Wrist pain
A good piano instructor can help you avoid bad technique. I always recommend having someone to look over the way you position the hands and to help develop a solid practice plan that is safe so the hands can benefit from piano playing, not suffer. This article can help you develop a piano practice regimen for success.
What Happens If Nonsurgical Remedies Don’t Work
When nonsurgical remedies fail to provide relief from carpal tunnel syndrome, there are two other options available. They are more aggressive therapies, and reserved only for severe stage carpal tunnel syndrome. They includesteroid injectionsandcarpal tunnel surgery.
Steroid injections are effective inabout 45%of patients. And when the injections are effective, they wear off in a few weeks to months afterward. In other words, the relief is only temporary.
Carpal tunnel surgeryhas similar results. About57% of operated patientsare not satisfied with their results by 2 years. The main reason for reports of dissatisfaction is return of symptoms or persistent pain.
However, since most people get good results with the nonsurgical remedies discussed above, steroid shots and surgery are becoming less and less popular.
Does My Posture Make A Difference
Why, yes, it sure can. Lets go back to that office for a minute. See all those people who are working barefoot at special standup desks? Thats not just a yuppie fad. Our bodies are not designed for extended sitting. Cavemen did not have chairs. They spent their days standing and walking, and then they lay down to sleep. Sitting is significantly more stressful on the back than standing. Since all of your muscles are connected, its better to reduce overall stress by playing in a standing position, unless youre playing a really laid-back coffeehouse, or youre a member of REM.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome In Relation To Guitarists
If you are a guitarist or a hands-on musician, you could be at a higher risk of being affected by the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Do you know what this is? Well, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is characterized by numbness, burning, weakness, pain, and tingling in the hands and wrists. This is as a result of too much pressure being repetitively exerted on the median nerve.
The median nerve is responsible for providing sensation to all fingers except the small one, also known as pinky. This nerve usually runs through a narrow carpal tunnel. The tunnel results from a semi-circular arrangement of carpal bones. Feeling numbness means that the median nerve has failed and this is how the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome comes about.
Why Me The Bass Player
RSIs can strike any musician: drummers, guitarists, and keyboardists all fall victim. But the bass player gets struck by carpal tunnel syndrome more frequently because his or her instrument requires a heavier action. It takes more force to pluck a thick bass string by hand, or fret that giant low B, than it does to depress a piano key or strum a chord with a pick. All that effort is really working your wrists. And since you love to play, youre making it worse all the time. Your body can only take so much.
Another hidden cause of RSIs in bassists? Carting your instrument around. The act of carrying that heavy axe inside a hard case is beating up the same body part that your practice session already worked over: the wrist you pick with.
Heres A Better Approach To Solving Guitar Wrist Pain
1. Reduce the amount of guitar practice by about 50% to get some leeway. No need for a complete stop unless your symptoms are severe.
2. Reduce tension and increase circulation by massaging the affected area. Self-massage methods are the most practical as they can be done by ourselves. This step is the most important and in some cases, it might be enough on its own. Increased circulation brings faster regeneration, which is critical for the healing process!
3. Increase mobility, coordination and movement quality by doing exercises that move your joints in their full range of motion, and challenge your brain. The latter is especially important since a smarter brain controls the muscles better, which leads to safer and more efficient movement not only in guitar playing but in everything else, too.
And about the timing : movement drills before playing, stretches after playing.
4. Build resilience and strength the proper way to resist the negative effects of guitar playing outlined in the previous section. This step should come only when you are 95% free from pain, but its no less important, as it will conserve the progress you made and will make you pain-free for years.
5. Develop better body awareness so you can notice if you hold tension anywhere in your body while playing guitar .
Of course, there is more to it, but this approach will provide superior gains compared to the general recommendations you can find elsewhere on the internet.
How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel With Stretching Exercises
I often tell patients,”Do these stretches and you’ll never see carpal tunnel syndrome.”It’s absolutely true. If you’re at high risk, and symptoms of carpal tunnel didn’t start yet, you can completely avoid them with regular hand and finger stretches.
There are 4 key stretches everyone at high risk must do. These are calledcore exercises.They’re designed to stretch your flexor tendons so you can avoid carpal tunnel syndrome altogether.
These stretches are designed to lubricate the flexor tendons. They also break apart any adhesions on the tendons. Suchare responsible for causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Best of all, each stretching exercise can be done quickly. In total, all four exercises take no more than 2 minutes to complete.
Do these stretching exercisesat least three times per day.More is always better.
The prayer stretch is designed to lubricate the entire length of your flexor tendons. Place both palms together as in a prayer position, with fingers pointing upward. Keep your hands close to your body and at the level of your breastbone.
While holding your hands at the same level, slowly elevate both elbows as high as you can. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and then relax. Drop your hands to your sides and shake them out for a few seconds.
This stretch concentrates on the flexor tendons inside the wrist joint. Hold one hand out in front of you as if you’re saying “Stop!”.
Finger interlace stretch
Violinists Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome In Route To 10000 Hours
Just before the turn of the century a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied a group of promising young violinists. They studied their approach to practice in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each of the Violinists were asked a question: Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?
All of them had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times in the beginning. However, by age eight, practice times began to diverge from one another. By age twenty, the elite performers had stacked up an average of more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less proficient in the group had an average of only about 4,000 hours of accumulated practice.
The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less able violinists.
Stay Healthy And Exercise
It may sound obvious and generic, but eating right and exercising is the most effective way of preventing tendonitis while improving ones overall health. A well-balanced diet can provide the essential nutrients that are needed to ensure joints and tendons are strong. It will also help with repairing any muscle damage. Food items rich in vitamins, protein, and fiber will help here along with sufficient daily hydration.
Exercise, on the other hand, helps strengthen surrounding muscles and joints that make them less susceptible to conditions such as tendonitis. Focus on wrist and arm exercises, these will strengthen core muscles that are used more often when playing the guitar.
Sleep is also important here as it ensures the body is rested and has the energy and time to repair any damages on the tendon or joints.
How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel And Prevent It For Bass Players
How to avoid carpal tunnel guitar. Once you begin to feel pain while playing your guitar, you need to make changes to prevent. They lifted more heavy objects. When playing guitar extensively posted 27.
In many cases, carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of overusing the hands. Wear your guitar high with the neck at an upward angle. The blood circulation tends to get a little slow and numbness as well as stiffness is experienced repeatedly.
I think you really need to talk to a specialist. Different guitar playing positions to try include: Keep in mind that the more your wrist is bent or repetitively stressed, the greater the chances carpal tunnel will arise.
Knowing this fact, you can redesign workstations and manual tasks to avoid such stresses. How to survive carpal tunnel syndrome as a guitarist Knight suggests that every musician, amateur or professional, should develop good habits to prevent and treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
Playing guitar continuously is a sort of strenuous activity and tires your wrist, forearm as well fingers completely. Here are six remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome relief. Dont over do it when you practice.
They’re an excellent way to avoid and treat carpal tunnel syndrome while also strengthening your hands. Next, you can avoid pain by avoiding the things that cause you pain. They churned butter and shoveled snow.
Knight says that regular rest from playing is the most obvious thing musicians should do to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Are There Things You Can Do To Avoid Or Reduce The Pain
Theres plenty you can do to avoid or reduce the pain of playing guitar. Here are some best practices:
- Dont press down too hard when you hit a note or chord. Many guitarists will tell you that a light touch will typically give you the sound you want.
- Keep your nails short so that the fingernails dont absorb the pressure and put strain on your fingers.
- Start short and play longer and longer as your calluses develop and you adjust your technique to minimize pain. Play for about 15 minutes at a time three times a day and go from there.
- Switch to lighter-gauge strings once your calluses are built up to avoid the possibility of being cut by a thinner string.
- Adjust the space between the strings and fretboard on your guitar so that you dont have to push down as hard.
Long-term guitar playing can increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome if youre not careful.
Heres what you can do to reduce your risk:
- Take breaks between long sessions to relax your muscles and tendons.
- Flex and stretch your wrist and finger muscles often to keep them flexible.
- Keep your hands warm to allow more muscle and tendon flexibility.
- Dont crack your knuckles often or at all.
- Meet with a physical therapist, if possible, to get regular treatment for sore or damaged muscles and ligaments.
Here are some more carpal tunnel exercises you can try to help reduce the symptoms or development of the condition.
How Can I Avoid Getting An Rsi In The First Place
Lots of beginner musicians experience RSIs. Remember the soreness and painful fingertips that were your badges of honor when you first took up your instrument? When beginners begin a heavy practice regimen using unfamiliar motions, thats a perfect setup for developing an RSI. Take frequent breaks, stretch out your hands, and try to keep those sessions within a reasonable time limit. If youve clocked so many hours that a union worker would be demanding time and a half, its probably time to hang it up for the day.
When To See A Doctor
Its best to see a doctor if the pain does not go away despite resting, applying cold- whether its ice or frozen Gelliflex balls – and using the ®.
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and imaging test to see if you have torn any tissue or if there is possible nerve compression.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to see a health care provider if the symptoms get worse or that it does not go away on its own.
Style & Type Of Guitar
It can be also time to explore a different style like slide guitar where your fingers arent expected to dance around the fretboard as much.
It doesnt have to be permanent, you could alternate, but if it helps alleviate any pain then it could be worthwhile.
You could also look at playing a Ukulele or a Classical guitar with nylon / gut strings that are lighter.
How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel Guitar
Carpal tunnel is very much an issue for guitar players and other insturmentalists, and there must be doctors or physical therapists who specialize in their issues playing, or returning to playing after diagnosis and treatment. Carpal tunnel sucks bigtime and is not prevented by bravado!
“New Ergonomics” Do your repetitive daily work, but each
Playing Correctly With Your Wrist
It’s tempting, especially when you’re new to playing guitar, to grip tightly. This applies even when played with a pick and a tight grip can strain the thumb muscles. The same tight grip can apply and cause strain if applied to the guitar neck or by pushing down hard onto the frets. Try only to apply as much pressure as needed and never more.
When you play the notes on the guitar, your wrist should only bend slightly or moderately as your fingers curve to reach the strings.
If you want to, you can raise the height of your guitar to decrease the bending. The goal is not to over-bend or over-curve your wrists. This can significantly help to reduce pain, tension, and stress on your wrist.
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The Reason You Get Carpal Tunnel From Guitar Playing
The reason you feel unpleasant of carpal tunnel from guitar playing is the result of the median nerves compression. The compression produces neuropathy, which is when the nerves signals between the fingers and brain are scrambled.
This signal scrambling results in motor problems like weakness or limited hand movement. It also results in a variety of sensory problems. For example a feathery touch might feel like a stab or burn.
The most common neuropathy sensations caused by carpal tunnel syndrome usually include hand or finger:
How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel With Rest
Simple rest is one of the most important ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health saystaking regular breaksis one of the crucial things you can do to prevent most musculoskeletal disorders.
NIOSHtaking rest breaks lasting up to 3 minutes when you’re using your hands. During these breaks, it’s most helpful if you can also:
- Drop your hands to your sides and shake them out
- Do fast hand stretches
- Stretch out your arms
- Stretch your back by arching backward
- Squeeze your shoulders together
Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Be Prevented
Well, the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can easily be prevented if noticed at an early stage. Besides, knowing that some lifestyle activities can cause the syndrome, you can try to avoid or minimize your engagement in them. For example, you can reduce the frequency at which you play your guitar from ten times a day to just once or twice a day. In addition, exerting too much pressure on your wrist can also lead to the manifestation of carpal syndrome. Therefore, while at work, try to adjust your chair and change sitting positions to avoid exerting too much pressure on your wrist. The following measures can also help prevent the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
· Performing stretching and training exercises before engaging in an activity that will exert pressure on your wrist. E.g. guitar playing, typing, etc
· Taking breaks at intervals when engaging your wrist repetitively.
· Avoiding repetitive flexion and extension of your wrist.
· When using tools and equipment, keep your wrists straight.
· Holding your wrists straight when sleeping.
· Avoiding lifting heavy weights by your wrist.
How Do You Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If youre practicing your instrument eight hours a day without breaks, or just starting to play, youre likely to get these problems. Keeping the wrist in a neutral position as much as possible will reduce the risk of contracting carpal tunnel. Im a bass player and I play with my fingers, so if you look at it in the context of that instrument, my left hand is constantly in a flexed position so that I can grab the notes on the neck. My right hand is also in a state of flexion because I play with my fingers. What happens is players tend to get their hands on the instrument, crook them over into that flexion, and just let them sit there. By keeping it there, the force doesnt let up; theres no rest. So you have the flexion component causing a problem.
For more on carpal tunnel syndrome and Dr. Kertzs The Bassists Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health visit Dr. Kertzs website.
Carpal Tunnel Relief For Musicians
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nervethe nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. If you play your instrument for many hours per day without adequate breaks and/or stretching, you may one day find yourself afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome. In his book, The Bassists Guide to Injury Management, Prevention, and Better Health, Chicago-based chiropractor, Randall Kertz, D.C., discusses the condition in depth. Making Music asked Kertz to shed some light on the symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures. Though hes a bass player himself, and his title suggests that it might be specific to that instrument, Kertz designed the guide to point out problems that any musician may encounter.
How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel For Guitar Players
So, youve finally decided: 2017 is the year you learn to play guitar! But before you attempt Free Bird and subsequently give up on learning guitar after 5 minutes, you should know about a little something called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how to prevent it.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is located along the wrist where the palm and forearm connect. The tunnel houses the transverse carpal ligament, bones, and tendons. Carpal tunnel syndrome arises when pressure is applied, which reduces space in the tunnel. This results in a pinched nerve, hand pain, and numbness.
There are certain steps you can take to help avoid it, though for guitar players especially. These steps include:
For information about carpal tunnel, contact any of the Healthpointe clinics, such as the Anaheim clinic near Fullerton, Placentia, Villa Park, Buena Park, Cypress, Cerritos, and Garden Grove, or call 888-719-8448.
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