Exercises, Stretches ........and Nerve Glides

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by David Potts, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. In a recent thread, "Tired and cool down", I began to derail the OP's question by introducing stretches and exercises as warm-ups and cool-downs rather than play more notes. I attached everything that I had kept over the years, probably too much information, hoping that each of you might select a few for the sake of preventing injury, maintaining flexibility and good posture, and avoiding stiffening afterwards.

    Athletes,no matter what sport they are into, have a way of "limbering up" to get blood moving through their muscles. A swimmer or runner have to give their best from their first stroke/ stride. Cyclists warm up before their races and warm down afterwards. As musicians our hands have to give their best from the first notes and our brains have to be in gear too.

    A wise old hand surgeon, Professor Earl Owen, took a keen interest in musician's health here. Part of his advice was to go for a one-hour walk, especially if we were to practice for long periods. I must try to find his letter that was full of advice. He was a leading micro-surgeon who re-attached severed fingers and hands, etc.

    I have been picking my physiotherapist's brain while being worked on. They agree with the ideas of warming up with some exercises and a few stretches before playing and in breaks then some stretches after playing while cooling down. All these should not be too strenuous and be within the normal range of movement. So think of the muscles, shapes, alignments and range of movements that we use.

    More recently I have been made aware of nerve glides which are exercises and stretches that move nerves within their sheaths. I started getting a trigger finger in my second (middle) finger LH. As I bent and straightened the finger there was a click and jump in the movement. The middle joint became very sore and stiff. This had me visiting a hand surgeon who gave me a cortisone injection that seemed to work well for a while. I have had bouts of tingling and numb fingers occasionally, including once losing all sensation while playing in an orchestra - very scary. Following nerve conduction tests he declared that I had mild to moderate carpal tunnel problems. After playing Frank's D minor Symphony , Tchaik. No.5 and Mozart No. 41 on three consecutive days with three different orchestras the numbness and tingling became full-time and there was some pain, and I could not close my fist fully - even more scary.

    Next step was to find a really good hand physiotherapist who introduced me to a regime of nerve glides for both my hand and carpal tunnel as well as my median nerve. The effect on my thumb and two fingers may go all the way back to where the nerves exit my spine at the base of my neck. Good news is that things are slowly but steadily improving and I have never had to stop playing because the way I shape and use my fingers is outside forming the loose fist that can be painful. I hope to avoid surgery and the physio is very hopeful. He thinks that some nerve glides could be added to stretches and exercises for long term injury prevention.

    Does anyone have similar problems and insights to share?
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
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  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Nothing specific to what you have been gong through, but after a recent back injury (bulging disc L4-L5) I underwent MaKenzie therapy and learned a lot about the current science of stretching. The old way of thinking was that it was wise to stretch before undertaking intense physical activity; the newer thinking is that it's better to stretch after when the muscles are already warm. Here's a sample blurb about that from a medical site:

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    Unlike all the years of martial arts classes I took in my 20s and 40s where the class stretched aggressively before the class, I now try to stretch after my body is already warmed up and the blood is flowing. I had several instances of locking fingers near the ends of performances in the past 3 years, and each time it turned out to be due to dehydration. Currently, with the kind of core bass technique I practice, I gently stretch my shoulders while pacing around before practicing or performing, then stretch them more extensively afterwards. The athletes on the sidelines of professional sports games who ride a stationary bike while not in the game have it right - warm muscles are much less prone to injury than cold ones!
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  3. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I have some pretty serious health issues that make everyday mobility difficult at times. Several years ago I had to give up playing all together for months. I've been through a lot of PT, for several areas of the body.

    If I can warm up, I do. I almost always do when I'm practicing at home. I like to combine mobility and flex exercises pre-practice. I start with the larger postural groups, getting my back, neck, and shoulders loose. Then I get down the rotator cuffs, arms, and hands. The stretches are mostly of the variety that PT's would teach to prevent RSI - especially for office workers. Not all that different from the type of injuries that full time musicians deal with.

    In my case, hydration is as important a factor as anything. The key is trying to drink enough to be hydrated, but not be bursting at the seems before the set ends. The difficulty of this task is directly proportional to age.
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