Carpal Tunnel & Repetitive Stress Injury in Musicians
What is Repetitive Stress Injury or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
It happens not only to typists, but to anyone "straining their wrist" !
Pain in your wrist and hand when playing guitar, Piano,etc. could be carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of a class of injuries called RSI's (Repetitive Stress Injury).
Typically typists and computer users are affected by RSI's, but so is anyone else who performs repetitive actions in their job - including musicians.
In general, the injury occurs over time, when you have forced your hands or arms into unnatural contortions over and over again. Nerves and tendons become irritated and extremely painful. At first, the pain only occurs when you are doing the repetitive action, but as the damage increases, the pain can become chronic, severely limiting your motion.
Carpal Tunnel are cumulative.
"Once you begin to feel pain while playing your guitar,
you need to make changes to prevent further damage. "
People with advanced RSI's have been forced to change careers, no longer able to work without pain, and causing a serious and costly problem in their lives. Imagine never being able to play because of the pain.
If I am not mistaken, Leo Kotke suffered for a while from RSI
What can you do if you have begun to feel some pain while playing?
It's a good idea to become aware of your technique, and see which motions seem to be putting stress or tension on your hands or wrists, even your shoulders.
It's unnatural for your body's anatomy to perform repetitive tasks using your wrists and hands.
The long nerves in your arms can be irritated, especially at the joints.
You need to refine your techniques, use different hand positions, using less pressure, holding the instrument correctly. The main message is to change something about your playing technique.
Have an experienced guitar player look at your technique.
You also need to stay in decent shape, so take up some mild exercise if you need to strengthen your body.
Once you are using correct form, your pain should disappear. Just make sure not to over do it by keeping your practices to a modest amount of hours.
If you already feel the pain even when you are not playing, things have unfortunately advanced to a more serious state, meaning you have caused more damage to your nerves.
You should probably see a professional, a naturopath or a doctor at this point.
RSI's of this caliber are extremely painful and hard to recover from.
Here are some suggestions that have helped in the past.
Make sure your hands and wrists are well circulated, use some liniment and some tender love and care, and massage them gently.. The message is, keep your hands and wrists warm, and good circulation will help with that. Your movements will be smoother and less troublesome if you warm the area up before working.
Never play with cold hands.. even use some warm water, hydrotherapy, blankets, heating pads.
Try a bandage or wrist band... this will help you avoid painful motions.
Do some upper arm - shoulder exercise, that will help with nerve pain, get some massage for your neck and upper back area as well.
Be careful taking pain killers to keep working, numbing the pain can lead to increased damage if you play longer than you should because you aren't feeling it.
- Some people swear by herbal or other nutritional supplements for treatment. The rational for treatment is to lower the inflammatory rate and the possible nerve swelling associated with that.
Once the nerve is free to move and not pinched inside the "Carpal Tunnel" pain will subside.
Supplements will take some time to work, try some Omega Capsules, B12, B6, Ginger, Turmeric, Bioflavanoids
Try everything before you end up going the route of surgery to remove the pressure on their nerves. Hopefully, you will use proper technique and avoid such a serious situation.
The bottom line is, RSI's are serious, and as a musician, you are a prime RSI candidate.
Use common sense while playing, and in your daily life.
Be aware of how you are positioning your hands and wrists, and correct positions that create pain, tension, or stress.
Make sure to allow rest periods and other physical activities to balance out your load and keep you flexible.
Be good.... play good...