As some of you know from one of my earlier posts, I received my first guitar (a gift from an ex) in June 0f 2013. I had never played a guitar before. So I took 2 or 3 lessons with a local guitar teacher but for some reason that I forget why, I didn’t pursue it more till January of 2014 when I started taking regular guitar lessons with a great guitar player and teacher (Bruce Garnitz).
All was going well until I started feeling some pain in my right wrist and arm. I know that when muscles and tendons are pushed to learn new movements, they react and some “growing” pain is expected. But this felt a bit more. So I searched online and found a physical therapist on the East Coast (U.S.) who specializes in musician issues. We spoke on the phone and he said that he clearly knows what this is as he sees it quite a bit in other musicians. His diagnosis was that I have “tennis elbow” and recommended I wear a splint right under my elbow. Now, just to be fair to him, he did say that since he can’t see me in person, he could be off. I did buy the splint and wore it for a few days and saw no improvement. So I went to the physical therapist I know in West Hollywood, California (his expertise was not musicians issues as far as I knew and that’s why I didn’t go to him first).
Within ten minutes of examining me, he said it’s my neck. He said that when the neck is stiff, it exerts pressure on the nerves passing through it and that could cause pain all throughout the arm and hand. I told him that I was already doing all the hand and finger warm-ups for guitar playing and that I’m an active person and jog or ride my bike six days a week for an hour. But evidently, according to him, that doesn’t address the neck area. Riding a bike, working (for my day job) on a computer all day and playing a guitar or keyboard all put pressure on the neck. So he put some electrodes on my neck and shoulder and covered it with an ice pack for 20 minutes. He also gave me some specific neck exercises to do at home and some advice on posture. When I left his office, my pain had already disappeared and I didn’t have to go to him for a whole year.
Recently I accompanied someone else who is suffering from Carpal Tunnel to the same physical therapist in West Hollywood. He examined her and said her median nerve (that goes from neck to hands) is being pushed by the very stiff muscles of her neck. She’s starting therapy and we’ll see how that goes.
The reason I shared all of this is that I think there might be other artists who use and/or overuse their hands, exert extra pressure on their necks and have pain. I’m hoping that if you’re one of them and are exploring remedies, you think of your neck as well.
On a side-note…
As probably most of you know, nothing beats daily whole-body stretching, yoga and/or a good massage. But I was curious about the electrodes used on me, so I searched online (very briefly) and found out that the actual device is a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) device. Home versions of that device (albeit not as strong and granted, not with the expertise of a physical therapist and his staff) are being sold at the likes of amazon, and end-user reviews have been pretty good.
May all you artists out there start your week with good “full-body” posture 🙂 and amazing, creative and expressive art!