Okay, so the gig is over and your wrist and hands are aching. You go to bed and think, "It will be better after a good night's sleep". You wake up in the morning and your wrists feel swollen and and you can't hold a cup of coffee without pain. Panic sets in as your imagination runs wild........ No need to panic! First of all this has probably been building up over time. A little stiffness, a little aching, we take some Tylenol and forget about it. This may make the symptoms go away, but it will not solve the underlying cause of the problem. More likely than not, the problem is Repetitive Stress Injury. Even if the symptoms seem to resemble Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the underlying cause may still be Repetitive Stress Injury, which can cause knots in the muscle that can pinch the nerve, causing symptoms that are almost identical to CTS. Repetitive Stress Injury is caused by repeated motion over time that is confined to a particular muscle group. Hmmm, sounds like just what we musicians do! Now here's the deal: because musicians work with pretty much all the muscles in the upper body, some of these muscle groups, (like in the hands or even the wrist and arms) are composed of relatively small muscles. This makes them even more susceptible to this type of injury. A large muscle, like the thigh muscle, may take quite a bit of punishment before it develops RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) but smaller muscle groups can develop this condition relatively quickly.
Okay so next is what to do about it. There are a number of options available that can help with this. We will start with the least invasive and most readily available option. If at all possible, get yourself a really good professional massage. This is the first line of defense against this type of injury. Just as sports teams have their massage therapists for all those big muscles groups they use, musicians should have massage therapists for those pesky small muscle groups we use over and over. If you are a student on a college campus, the college health center may offer massage for a reasonable fee. If you live near a massage school, this is a great way to get a massage for a good price. Sometimes, a certain amount of massage therapy will be covered by insurance, you just have to check with your company.
So what is massage?
Massage is used by traditional and alternative practitioners. The practice of massage is one of the oldest forms of therapies for which there is a record. Massage is mentioned in Chinese texts written as early as 2700 BC. The Greeks and Egyptians also show massage in their artwork. Hippocrates referred to massage in his writings in the fifth century BC. Currently, many doctors and physical therapists are beginning to recommend massage as an adjunct to their therapy. It has been recommended for conditions as varied as joint injuries, neck and back pain, arthritis and migraines. Many athletic teams have massage therapists on staff, as do many professional dance companies. Because massage therapists are trained in massage, not medicine, many of them refer to their patients as clients rather than patients. This helps prevent any misunderstanding as to the relationship between the therapist and the client. The Western and Eastern traditions have developed different theories and techniques of massage. The first type of massage that will be addressed in the next post is the Western tradition of massage.