I developed tendonitis from overuse of my right shoulder doing my cello
practice --This was almost a year ago - -I have tried many things (chiro, phys therapy, pain
relievers...) nothing has been successful.
I don't want to quit cello for life! Any ideas on possible remedies? Any
resources on the Net that might help? I am not a fan of surgery - I hope it
doesn't come down to that!
1. Charles Replies
Try the Alexander Technique. Type in these words (in a search engine?) and you will get lots
of info on the subject. It is not a quick remedy but it will help."
2. Shannon Replies:
Every teacher will have their own thoughts on how to prevent tension as
you play, but there isn't a single technique that can boast 100% success
in eliminating these injuries in everyone who's given it a fair shot.
Your problem may be your teacher (I'm assuming you're a student, sorry
if you're not!) or perhaps in how well you listen to your teacher : - )
In which case a change of teacher or a change of heart would make a
world of difference. Another thing to think about is how well you are
taking care of yourself. There are a lot of theories out there about
Repetitive Strain Injury. Fortunately, as computers are taking over the
job industry, more people are winding up victims of RSI and are finally
getting this problem the attention it needs for some solid research and
treatments. Some of what these specialists are finding is pretty
surprising and relates just as well to our feild as musicians as it does
to those who work at a computer all day. BASIC factors such as diet and
sleep impact your body's tolerance to strain enormously.
If you want a good, informative read on RSI, I recommend Repetitive
Strain Injury, A Computer User's Guide by Emil Pascarelli, MD and
Deborah Quilter. It is written for computer users, but the doctor who co
authored actually has a clininc that specializes in helping musicians
recover from RSI, as the injuries in these two fields are caused by
similar motions. The book's ISBN if you want to order it is 0 - 471 -
59533 - 0 and is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Here are a few things you might want to consider if you haven't heard it
already from one of your doctors. Basically what it boils down to is
taking care of yourself. Being a musician is a lot like being an athlete
in that along with the practice hours you put in, you MUST be willing to
put in an equal amount of care for your fitness and nutrition. We depend
on our bodies as an athlete depends on theirs and we HAVE to take care
of it. Read on...
a) have you tried to isolate what the source of your pain is? I mean, is
it possible you have a slight curviture of the spine, or some
irregularities in skeletal structure (ribs, perhaps)? It sounds weird,
but you won't believe what a good specialist can find just from a basic
x-ray! If your chiropractor and physical therapist can't help you, go to
someone who can, perhaps a hand specialist? In any case, basic
irregularities or imbalances with your back, hips, ribs, neck, etc. can
cause some muscles to tighten in your shoulders, chest, back, etc. that
can lead to tendonitis and other strain injuries.
b) Diet and exercise can also have a lot to do with repetitive strain
injuries. A high fat diet, a diet that isn't complete with all of the
necessary vitamins (especially B vitamins), and a lifestyle that doesn't
allow enough time for a proper exercise routine can all contribute to
strain injuries like yours.
c) Basic habits and attitudes are also a culprit for some who suffer
from strain injuries. Poor posture, chronic tension in your hands or
your jaw or your shoulders, etc. are problems for obvious reasons. Also,
if for some reason your cello is really stressing you out, or you're
working at a job that is stressful or you just can't stand to be there,
you are setting yourself up for some serious tension. Also if you drink
excessively or smoke or you're not getting enough water or sleep, you
may be aggravating your injury even more.
My advice to you is to stay away from surgury. Too many risks, too many
unqualified or overanxious surgeons out there waiting for the
unsuspecting RSI sufferer to come along. Those of you who support
surgury as a viable solution for everybody (or if there are any hand
surgeons out there reading this) can flame me personally for my
frankness (don't clutter the message board on my account), but I've seen
this happen too many times to apologize for my scepticism. For many,
surgury may really be the only option left, but just because your doctor
says so doesn't mean you should go out and get it without getting
another opinion first! So, this may be the longest post in message board
history, but I hope I opened some up some new vistas for you to explore.
And I really do want you to read that book, it's a good read. Good luck!
3. Victor Sazer Replies
Shoulder injuries are high frequency problems among cellists. Improper
use rather than overuse usually cause them. Turning your upper arm
inward (pronating) or raising your shoulder as you play can damage your
shoulder joint (rotator cuff). Cellists can be observed doing one or
both of these things, particularly when playing on the A string.
The solution may be to change the way you sit, hold you cello and align
and use your body when you play. I believe that the traditional way of
holding the cello tends to induce the kind of problem you have. Cellists
also have the highest incidence of back problems of any group of
musicians and this too is largely caused by faulty sitting habits. The
up side is that is quite simple to adopt more healthful ways of sitting
and improve body use. When your body is properly balanced and aligned,
you are able to address all of your strings without doing anything that
can hurt you.
You might find some helpful information in New Directions in Cello
Playing, subtitled How to Make Cello Playing Easier and Play Without
Pain. You might also check out the interview that Tim Finholt did with
me for some alternative ideas. It can be found on this ICS website.
4. Victor Sazer's Additional Comments
Another specific thing that can put a strain on your shoulder is leaning
forward as you play. I don’t know whether you do this or not, but try
the following experiment:
Raise and lower your arms while standing or sitting erect with both arms
extended in front of your body. Then continue to raise and lower your
arms as you lean your trunk forward. Do your arms feel heavier when you
lean forward? Do you feel the strain on your shoulders as well?
This shows how important the alignment of your body is in preventing
pain. In addition, when you lean forward your body is out of balance
because you put some of your weight in front of your center of gravity.
If you release your back and abdominal muscles while in this position,
you will fall forward. So, leaning forward forces you to use (wasted)
muscle power just to keep from falling forward. This creates uneeded
tension before you even begin to play.
Some therepists tend to attribute all or most performance-related injury
to overuse assuming that the way you play is the only way to do it. I
think it is more accurate to charactarize the main cause of pain as
improper use rather than overuse. Repetative motions can be one of many
causes, but even these are not the same. There are significant variables
in addition to the frequency of repeated movements. Vibrato is an
example of repetative motion that actually releases stress rather than
inducing it. By exploring alternatives you can find ways to feel better
and play better.