Ever since I became a musician I’ve heard horror stories of musicians with tendonitis and carpal tunnel and how it’s the worst thing in the world to have these conditions. Well as I grew up and began to get serious about this whole music thing I started to meet more and more professional musicians that are affected by these injuries. But I remained feeling like the indestructible youngster that I thought I was. Until one day I was speaking on the phone with a good friend and I felt a sharp pain on my right elbow. I let it go and just thought it would go away in a day or two; well it didn’t, and to make matters worse a couple of days later same thing happened on my left elbow. Oh the horror!!! I’ve been afflicted by the incurable condition known as tendonitis, my career is over!!!! Or so I thought.
I did have to spend 4 months off the instrument (Although I probably didn’t really need so much time off but oh well you live and you learn!). I tried everything from the chiropractor, acupuncture and physical therapy; the latter probably being the best. Finally I got the guts to pick up my guitar once again and start practicing. I ended up learning a couple of massages that alleviate the pain and now once and for all I have the condition under control. I don’t really get any pain unless I overdue it in practice. The important thing is to learn about our bodies since everybody is different, and learn how to take care of it. But in the process I learned what and how to practice when my instrument is not really a choice. Like fitness guru Tony Horton says; if you injured your leg, you can still work out your arms and abs and vice versa. The same can be applied to music…
With injury comes restriction, one of the main pillars of improvement in the realm of education when it comes to practice. Have you ever limited yourself to play on only one string? Played using only one specific rhythm? Etc… Well, what happens? You tend to see possibilities that would have been impossible to see without these. So, you’re injured and can’t play your instrument (In my case guitar). So I picked up drum books and practice odd times, subdivisions, rhythmic illusions, etc… I never left home without my trusty metronome, a notebook and my headphones. What else? I got theory crazy and started taking up crazy scale formulas, harmonized them and wrote down melodies and chord possibilities. I even wrote scale diagrams for the guitar so that when I went back to the instrument they would already be in my head; I would just need the fingers to follow.
What this meant was that for 4 months I practiced crazy stuff that never in my life I would have practiced if it wasn’t for my tendonitis. It made me get creative when it got to practicing. Not only that, it prepared me mentally for any other kind of injuries to come in the future. Not too long ago; around two months to be exact, I broke a knuckle on my right arm by; well, being a knuckle head. So in that moment in time I still had my left arm which I could use to practice. I also had two fingers available in my right hand so I practiced a bit of finger picking. Even did a show while my hand was in the cast (I don’t recommend you do this). I also worked on my ear training and solfege exercises, being that you don’t really need your hands to train the most important body part a musician has; his ears.
So if by any chance you do get injured, remember a couple of things:
· It’s not the end of the world
· Practice: there is tons of material out there that does not require your instrument to actually practice it
· Visit a doctor as soon as possible to make sure that the injury heals correctly
· And again: RELAX!!! It’s not the end of the world you will be ok
Most of all remember to allow yourself the time to heal, so what if you miss a couple of days of practice on your instrument? As I said in my first post, you are much more important than music, the world will indeed go on even if you don’t practice. So relax and wait until your body says it’s ok to get back to the grind. And if it happens to be any repetitive action injuries such as tendonitis, consider changing up your routine or technique, it’s worth it. Take care, warm up, stretch and happy practicing!!!!!