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The hands (med./lat.: manus, pl. manūs) are th...
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If you are like many instrumentalists, you have a well-developed capacity to block things out while practicing.  Do you lose track of time?  Forget to eat?  I actually don’t feel hungry when I practice.

Paying attention to the amount of time you’ve been at it and the last time you ate are crucial considerations in maintaining your ability to play your instrument.

I am writing about injuries today as I am recovering from surgery (not for that!).  My old injuries resurface mildly from time to time.  Triggers include being tired, cold temperatures (weather or a/c), humidity (it’s raining), being not quite 100% physically (i.e., coming down w/a cold), and being stressed (i.e., rushing to meet a deadline).

Emil Pascarelli, M.D., who treated me in NY in the ’90’s, has two informative books on the subject.  I credit him with saving my playing after being injured by trying to meet impossible deadlines at my high-pressure word processing job, using bad posture (slumping back in chair, resting wrists on edge of desk), and not taking breaks.  In addition, there is an excellent book by a physical therapist who trained w/Pascarelli.

The more you know about signs of potential problems, the healthier you will be.

Are you aware of the way you use your hands when you are away from your instrument?  How do you open a door?  Wash dishes?  Lift objects?  Hold the hairdryer?  Write?

Rather than using only your hands and fingers, try to use your entire arm, shoulder, and back.  Are you supporting your upper body with your legs?  Do you get enough exercise?  Eat healthfully?  Have decent posture?

Ergonomic tools can help a great deal.  Can openers, jar openers, whisks, graters, and many other things are available with large grip handles.  My grater has 2 panels with a handle on top & rubber feet on the bottom.  So it’s easy to hold, has good angles for grating, and won’t slip.  When you have to grip tightly or narrowly, your hands are straining.  And adding the problem of slippage means that you have to work harder just to keep the object in place so you can use it.

When you carry a shopping bag, use one w/handles.  You can then hold onto the handles and hang the bag straight down from your shoulder.  Holding paper grocery bags, for example, out in front of your body causes a great deal of strain on your arms and back.  It’s tiring.

For some time after I was injured, I was unable to wash heavy plates.  So, reluctantly, I went shopping for plastic.  A plate can be placed on the floor of the sink and washed that way, w/o holding onto the edge (very bad angle ~ the weight of the plate is only held by maybe 3 unsupported fingers).

Going for lightweight objects was worth the compromise.

It might be valuable to you if you begin to make a point of noticing your hand/arm/shoulder position throughout the day as you do various tasks.  Do you use your back muscles?  Large muscles can protect the small muscles in your fingers, but only if you use them.

I hope this helps… when you have sustained injuries, you become aware very quickly.  I am advocating that you be aware in advance so you won’t have to go there.  And if you know the warning signs and heed them, you won’t.

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