Topic: Playing With Wrist Deformity and a Pinched Nerve

does anyone have any suggestions on improving my playing? i have a deformity in the saddle joint in my right thumb that is complicated with tendinitis. i also have a pinched nerve in my right arm from a near-fatal horseback riding accident 5 years ago. i play oboe and i would like to continue playing despite these problems.

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Re: Playing With Wrist Deformity and a Pinched Nerve

Have you tried using a neck strap or one of the other devices that take the weight off of the right thumb (FHRED or MUTS).  If you use the search feature on the forum for these, you'll see some other posts about them.  I think it's really important that you don't make yourself play if you are experiencing pain.   I really admire your desire to continue playing the oboe even with your physical challenges and I wish you well in finding a way.

Oboe, English horn:  Amarillo Symphony, Chamber Music Amarillo, Amarillo Opera, Shepherd's Trio
Blog:  http://janet.thelaniers.net/
Composition & Arranging Website:  http://janetlanier.com
"Ever notice how orchestra pits shrink through the run of a show?"

Re: Playing With Wrist Deformity and a Pinched Nerve

The Ton Kooiman thumbrests might be of benefit to you.  Use Google to find descriptions and sellers.

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Re: Playing With Wrist Deformity and a Pinched Nerve

It would be helpful to know whether the thumb 'deformity' is accompanied by stiffness -- and if so, in what position. Late basal joint arthritis often results in the thumb being unable to move away from the palm, as in trying to reach around a glass or a baseball bat. If your thumb is 'stuck' close to the palm, no thumb rest will help, but avoiding the use of the thumb with a rest such as MUTS or the new one by Robert Morgan would keep you from having to hold up the instrument with the right thumb.

You also didn't mention which nerve was pinched -- and how it affects your hand sensation and muscles. This knowlege would be helpful in figuring out possible adaptations to help you play.

It may be that a hand therapist would be a good source of information on both counts for you -- I'd suggest having your primary physician make the referrral, and if you go, be sure to bring your oboe to show the therapist the problems that you've mentioned in your message.

Hope this is helpful,

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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Re: Playing With Wrist Deformity and a Pinched Nerve

Several years ago, I broke my RH in a fall on a staircase, severely damaging my thumb and some of the tendons/nerves in that area.  Odd thing was that this was the best thing that I ever "did" for my playing!  I went to a hand specialist, and had physical therapy and a brace made (both with my oboe...the brace was made so that it provided sufficient support while I was holding the instrument) to address both the damage from the fall and the damage already in place from my previous playing practices (I had severe tendinitis already, or so the specialist found during my therapy).  I also spent time working with the Alexander technique, which really changed the way that I play so that I would not re-injure myself.  So, a combination of hand specialist, physical therapy, and finding someone that specializes in the Alexander technique may held as well...

Candi Morris
Oboe/EH/Oboe d'amore
Dayton, OH

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Re: Playing With Wrist Deformity and a Pinched Nerve

I agree with Chester - I recently purchased a ton kooiman pro model thumb rest, and it has made a world of difference in my ailing right hand. What is does is that it transfers the weight of the oboe to much closer to the wrist than the first phalanx, making the oboe feel MUCH lighter, and it opens up the right hand position - consequently freeing the right hand technique.

If you were to make the investment, I would advise spending the money on the pro model, as you can adjust it every possible way imaginable (up and down the oboe, left right, and the appendage that branches off it can move pretty much anywhere to as it's made up of three different joints). The etude model is nice, but it doesn't offer the variety of positions that the professional does, plus the pro is made of metal while the etude is made of plastic. Much more durable in the long term.

Word to the wise, though - it does take getting used to, and every day it will feel weird until you have it adjusted to exactly where you like it. So if you do get it, don't put it on if you have an important performance within a couple weeks of installation. I've had mine for two weeks and while I like it, I still don't feel as though I have it in the best position yet. Just takes time to adapt to the healthier positioning.

Also, if you're not into making your instrument look a little odd from behind, this isn't for you. I don't really care what my oboe looks like, just so long as I can play it without pain and with good, clean technical interfacing, so I didn't mind it at all that it looks kind of funky. Also, if your pinkies are short like mine, you may find yourself considering having the right hand pinky cluster keys raised to compensate the inability to comfortably reach those keys while maintaining otherwise good hand position. I don't know about some people's opinion on moving keys around, but I think that we should be playing the oboe, and not letting the oboe play us. Just a thought.

Best of luck with the wrist issue. My empathy is extended to you as we both seek solutions to a problem many of us have.

Last edited by hautboismusique (2008-10-18 09:10:42)

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