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Thread: Wrist Tendonitis?

  1. #1
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    Default Wrist Tendonitis?

    I'd love to hear from anyone who's dealt with this. Around about August I started getting pain in my right (picking hand) wrist that kind've spread up to the middle of my lower point of my palm and often along pinky-side of my wrist. Also, I'd get pain on the top of my forearm and the top of my hand. No tingling, no numbness, no pain waking me up at night, no noticeable weakness and most of the finger pain was in the pinky, so i'm pretty sure it's not carpal tunnel. My guess is either ulnar tunnel or just wrist tendonitis. I've taken a week off from playing here and there since then, during which I would also keep up a steady consumption of Advil and Alleve. Also switched from using my mouse with my right hand to my left. There's actually an orthopedic group a few miles up the road in Baltimore that specializes in hand injuries suffered by musicians. When Frank Solivan had carpal tunnel surgery, I'm pretty sure that's where he went. I'm calling tomorrow to make an appointment. Being home-bound for so much time, maybe I've been woodshedding longer and harder these last few months. I also took up electric bass around March, which I was actually spending most of my time with from around April through June. However, with nice enough weather for the band to practice outside and socially distanced, as well as a handful of gigs, I've probably been playing about an hour of bass and maybe two hours of mando a day since the summer, minus a few weeks taken off completely here and there to see if the damn thing will just go away. Maybe my 45 year-old body is getting too old for that much woodshedding?

    At any rate, if anyone has dealt with similar symptoms I'd love to hear your experiences. My guess is that I will eventually see an ortho, they will say it's tendonitis and to just wear a splint, spend a few weeks taking OTC NSAIDs, and stop playing for a few months...which I do not want to do but will likely do anyway because there probably isn't much of alternative but making it worse.

  2. #2
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    Quite often total rest is the only thing that really helps. Not always though...

    It is VERY common overuse injuries show up
    1) when you up your workload in a short period of time
    2) in your late 30s and early 40s

    This site is excellent. http://rsi.unl.edu/music.html

    Both happened to me and it required a 3 year rest to completely heal. While it was frustrating, it forced me to study ergonomics and learn new physical ways of playing. Alex, hopefully you get to a good doc. If you have any questions, please email me.
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  3. #3
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    You really want to talk to an MD about it. I'm hesitant to offer suggestions, but I have hand issues from overuse. I start wearing a splint/brace on the impacted hand and wrist as much as possible, including sleeping, when it starts to flair up. For me, that tends to bring matters back under control. I had to try a couple of braces to find something that worked for me.

    Being home all the time these days, I work on the computer constantly, play instruments and do renovation work on the house, all of which are leading to hand issues, so I'm wearing the brace a lot right now.
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    Thanks for passing along that URL - lots of good info there. This has only been going on for a couple of months, so I don't think it will take years to heal, but, like I said, I'm guessing I will be told to take several months off. With it being too cold to have band practices outdoors, and too scary to have them indoors, AND no cold weather gigs because...well...I'm not going into a bar until I have an effective vaccine, I imagine November, December, January, and February will likely be recovery time. Oh well...lots of time to work on singing, practicing left hand scale exercises, and maybe teaching myself a bit of one-hand keyboards. I was watching a video with an orthopedist who is also a long-time bass player and one of the things he warned against was playing in a sitting position with your elbow resting on the top of the bass and your wrist hanging down. The danger is that if you accidentally press that elbow down hard enough and long enough, you can irritate, inflame, and impinge the ulnar nerve. I've been wondering if that might have been something I was guilty of doing. Also, I was NOT spacing out practices. It was 90 minutes of bass and then maybe two hours of mando. No break. I'm pretty aware now that that is NOT something I can do anymore.

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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    I've tried a few braces for sleeping. Still trying to find one that doesn't hurt the area between my thumb and index finger. Perhaps TMI, but I'm a side sleeper who almost always keeps both hands extended under my pillows, so I don't think I naturally curl my wrists at night, which can be especially aggravating for folks dealing with carpal tunnel. The braces are usually worn at night to prevent that instinctive and unconscious curling.

  6. #6
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    Electric bass is notoriously hard on the right wrist. Assuming that's the cause of your tendinitis, try to keep the wrist as straight as possible. People have problems when they rest the forearm on the bass resulting in almost a right angle in the wrist. Also learn floating thumb technique instead of anchoring the thumb on a pickup.

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    I dealt with a case in my auditioning days. It yielded to a three week course of ibuprofen, back when Advil was prescription-only.

    Reducing the inflammation allows healing because it decreases the rubbing.
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    Electric bass is notoriously hard on the right wrist. Assuming that's the cause of your tendinitis, try to keep the wrist as straight as possible. People have problems when they rest the forearm on the bass resulting in almost a right angle in the wrist. Also learn floating thumb technique instead of anchoring the thumb on a pickup.
    I've tried to be pretty conscious of wrist angle, though recently I've taken to playing classical guitar style while sitting to REALLY insure that the wrist stays as far away from a 45 degree angle as possible. Interestingly enough, from the moment I picked up the instrument, I just naturally used floating thumb. It was actually months into playing that I learned that some people permanently anchor their thumb on the pick-up.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    Going to see a physician will be the best thing you can do. I struggled for months with what I thought was tendonitis in my fretting hand/wrist, using Advil, a splint and finally knocking off playing altogether. Finally went to a doctor and found out it is arthritis of the thumb joint, very common. Also found out I shouldn't be using Advil or Aleve due to a prior small stroke. Nothing will stop it from occurring. I have a gel that I can rub in that works pretty well, but if it progresses there is a minor surgical procedure that can improve the situation quite a bit. I'm not going there unless it gets unbearable.

    Bottom line--see your doctor to find out exactly what it is and the best way to deal with it.

  10. #10
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    I agree with everyone that you should see a doctor, hopefully the one you mention who understands musicians. Let them check you out, could be many things.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    You should have a teacher (or teachers for both instruments) watch you play and comment on your chair, gear, posture, technique, repertoire, warmups, practice sessions. It's difficult to give detailed answers otherwise. Also besides high risk things, computer and musica instruments, look at other factors, bicycling, power/manual/garden tools, how you hold steering wheel when you drive, sleeping on your arm etc. A few years ago i had to stop playing fretted instruments when left wrist acted up and after a few weeks, no improvement (I was still playing piano and woodwinds). The problem turned out to be how i was holding steering wheel.

    Janet Horvath's book might also help, I used to get it out of the library every year so and read it https://janethorvath.com/books/playing-less-hurt/
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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrist Tendonitis?

    I went through a period of what I would call discomfort in my left wrist. Per Mike Marshall's advice I try to keep it as straight as possible without any awkward bending. One thing I noticed was that when I was driving, I would often have my left hand on the wheel in a way that bent my wrist backwards. I've made an effort to reduce that and it seems to have helped.
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