Help with Musician’s Wrist Pain

There was a helpful thread here last year on this topic—if I remember correctly. Unfortunately I’m having a hard time finding it!

My D is home from the first semester of freshman year. Unfortunately she has started experiencing finger/ arm/ wrist pain & numbness that is interfering with her practice. As she is a clarinetist, I always feared that carpal tunnel (or something similar) might be an issue for her, but she has thankfully avoided it up to this point. She is working on new hand positioning, which I suspect is contributing to the problem. Missing practice time causes her stress, and now she’s worrying about her upcoming semester.

She has asked for recommendations from her teachers, but that may take awhile to sort out. It’s a long shot, but we’d be up for making an appointment before she heads back to campus in two week, if at all possible. Perhaps a video consultation could be an option?

Does anyone have suggestions about the type of doctor or specialist we might need? We’re open to suggestions for treatment in or around the Philadelphia area. Thank you!

Is this the thread?

I hope you are able to find a good path to recovery!

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There was a thread by a mom whose son is at Berklee. His wrist problems resolved with therapy. I’ll try to find it.

In our experience, some physical therapy facilities have specialist PT’s for hand and wrist. They can custom make a splint and have special exercises to do at home.

Physiatrists can be good docs to consult.

You may be able to find a PT office that works with musicians.

One of my kid did PRP- platelet rich plasma- treatment which involves drawing blood, spinning it and reinjecting the concentrated platelets. This was suggested by docs and PT’s but that is quite a ways down the road.

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Thank you both! I believe it may be the thread mentioned by @compmom that I was remembering. Thankfully D reached out to a prof. at one of the schools where she auditioned—someone she also worked with at a summer program last year. He got right back to her and offered a Zoom meeting. He was EXTREMELY helpful and reassuring! (Bless all the wonderful teachers out there!) He, too, has experienced similar issues, and was able to make a great referral. D called this morning and secured an appointment in just a few days—a full week before she returns to campus. Feeling incredibly grateful and relieved! In speaking with the practitioner, it turns out that the adjustment D felt she needed to make to wrist/ finger positioning is not strictly necessary. While most players use the adjusted positioning, it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s possible to be just as efficient playing the way D has been all along. (Cue rejoicing!) The person she will be seeing is an oboe player, who works with members of the Philly Orch. and Eagles football team. Feeling very hopeful!


@mom2clarinetobsessedkid so glad to hear all of this!

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@momtoclarinetobsessedkid It’s so good to hear from you again. I’m glad that your D has started her musical “journey” at college. It sounds like she has had a common hiccup (however it never seems common when its your kid!). That may be presumptious of me to say…but in college, the extra practice time and changes do seem to create issues…and most get resolved…with a little time, patience and professional help. I remember my D got a bad cold for her first opera where she sang one line. She (and I, secretly) were very concerned that it would “impact her career” in some way! LOL. It didn’t. She didn’t get to sing her one line…but got cast again. No one seemed to hold it against her that she couldn’t be “perfect” and go from strength to strength all the time. Having a problem is OK and normal. I hope it’s a short one. She’ll probably learn from the experience.

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So good to hear from you @bridgenail! You are beyond kind to stay around here and help families from year to year. Your voice is always a wise and calming one. :wink:

Yes, I think this hiccup was to be expected. Not that she is necessarily practicing any more at college than she already was, but things like attempting to change hand positioning are bound to cause ripple effects. Just relieved we were able to find someone for her to see. I think having the hope of treatment and hearing from others that it could be done has eased her mind. I’m afraid she had visions of her career coming crashing to an end before it even started!

Wanted to give an update, as so much of this is new to me. D. had her appointment yesterday with a woman specializing in Rolfing. This detailed appt. included my D. playing for her so that posture, hand position, finger movement, etc. could be examined. She made a few minor adjustments in leg position and breathing for my D. She assessed that hand position was fine. She felt D’s hands and wrists for any muscle, etc. issues, and found nothing of concern.

The practitioner noted that this type of issue is VERY common—especially around the second semester of freshman year when many teachers are attempting to correct issues and/or transition students to their preferred methods. Of note, she gave several examples such as the Curtis violin teacher who required his/her students to use a particular chin rest (?) the teacher felt was vital for successful playing (as it had been for him/her). Unfortunately, most of the students ended up with neck and shoulder issues—which were ultimately traced back to the fact that the teacher had an especially short neck, and most of the students did not. What worked beautifully for one was not at all suited to the others!

At any rate, The mechanics of D’s long, thin fingers are apparently different enough from her teacher’s shorter, broader fingers that the same hand position will not work for both of them. Good information to have. D. will continue to implement the teaching of her professors AND the insights from the Rolfing specialist. Thankfully this particular issue was very treatable. D. finds all of this endlessly fascinating, and is thrilled to get back to work with minor adjustments and reassurances in place!

So impressed by how quickly insightful help was found, and this is great info for everyone… so thanks for posting the update.

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Yay! I’m glad to hear this. Thanks for sharing as this is the type of information that can be helpful to future college students. Once students get to college and go through , maybe, their first big transition, it is quite common to experience issues…just when you have noticed how high the competition is…which makes you not want to back off. But she did the right thing to acknowledge the problem and consult other professionals. This behavior will bode well for her the future.

When students are looking at schools…making sure that there is a good sized faculty is important in case you would ever make a change or your teacher leaves. My D’s teacher was out for a semester due to back problems…and really it was a good experience in the end. A new set of professional eyes and ears is rarely a bad thing. You can learn so much from a variety of professionals. There no need to cling to a single faculty member…particularly when you can access so much knowledge and other contacts for networking. I do understand in that your D’s case it was an outside prof but still … it holds true to use a number of resources in your development and have a collaborative approach with your teacher. Most teachers try their best…but the good ones treat you as an individual and will listen.

Good luck on her second semester.

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My son, on brass, developed serious wrist and forearm pain in the middle of 11th grade, when he was practicing very hard to impress his new teacher. We wound up seeing an orthopedic/plastic hand surgeon who had a lifetime of experience. He diagnosed an inflamed accessory (extra) muscle tendon bundle in the forearm, and advised just icing and ibuprofen (and of course, less playing time). It worked, never recurred. I got some helpful information from the specialty forum (not on college confidential) for his particular instrument.

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Thank you for sharing your updates. Its great to hear about the Rolfing technique. Another useful technique I have heard being used for similar issues is Alexander technique. The teacher of this technique will be able to identify the hand positions and the tension areas in the position that causes the issue and offer recommendations. Just wanted to share .

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My clarinetist (BM performance) broke her arm yesterday. Ugh. Good luck with the therapy!

Noooooo!!! I’m so sorry, @murray93. Sending healing vibes to your clarinetist. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery! :pray:t2:

Oh my gosh, that’s awful @murray93!

That’s really sad to hear. Hope she recovers very soon. Good luck!

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Hi there @mom2clarinetobsessedkid !! Fancy meeting you here :wink: Good to see you. Glad your D got the help she needed and quickly. My clarinetist had similar issues before he left which were rectified in one of his required classes… Alexander Technique for Musicians. Look it up… I believe there are some things on youtube. It’s all about proper positioning.,… posture, finger placement, holding etc etc. The kid called it “Yoga for Musicians” but it was a whole lot more and fixed a lot of issues. Also with the wrist thing his teacher recommended a thumb rest AND wearing a neck strap which he sent recommendations off. Once I figure out how, I’ll PM you the emails. Hope all is well in this second semester for your D and things are working out.

We should catch up :wink:

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Hey there, stranger! (@BenniesMom1) So good to ‘see’ you again here! Yes, the recommendation for Alexander Technique is spot on. D. had a chance to take a class in Alexander Technique at summer camp, and it was extremely helpful. She definitely noticed benefits. I think it’s available at school, but not sure. I know she hasn’t had room for it in her schedule yet. Hopefully in the future! She does use a thumb rest, but typically had NOT used a neck strap. Apparently this contributed to her wrist strain/fatigue. She has tiny wrists, and studies suggest that women tend to have less grip strength than men, and that men’s and women’s wrist bones move differently–which may contribute to the higher rates of issues like carpal-tunnel in women. So many factors to consider! It’s a work in progress, but I’m happy to report that she’s currently doing well. Loved the story of the clarinet/ woodwind birthday celebration for your guy. Sounds like he couldn’t have chosen a better place! :slight_smile:

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