Hand, Wrist & Elbow Fitness & Injury Prevention for Musicians: Part 3

Why do musicians get extensor tendonitis and elbow injuries?

By Dr. Terry Zachary

Welcome to Blog #3 in our hand muscle fitness & balance series. This week we talk about extensor tendonitis and elbow injuries in musicians.

Personally, I think today’s topic is the most fascinating, important and yet most misunderstood of all music fitness topics—and it is also the most valuable topic for creating great stamina and great musical performance (as well as for preventing needless injuries). Read on and I think you’ll see why.

Strive to really understand this blog and you will know exactly how to train your hand muscles for maximum playing potential!

Just a quick reminder not to get bogged down by the fancy term extensor tendonitis (-itis simply means inflammation)—if you have read the previous two blogs, you will understand everything you need to know about this very diverse condition.

Place your left hand onto of the back of your right hand fingers. Next, run your left hand all the way down the back of the wrist and forearm to the outside of your right elbow. The path you have just traced is where most of the extensor muscles of your fingers and wrist are located.

Extensor muscles are the opposite of flexor muscles. They open your hand (finger & thumb extensors) and move the wrist backwards (wrist extensors). Pretend to hold a drink tray up beside your ear. Notice that your fingers are now extended and so is your wrist. Now you know most of what these muscles do.

To the musician, though, these muscles have ONE MORE much greater function; a function that leads to the condition of extensor tendonitis.

Finger and wrist extensor muscles support the fingers whenever the finger flex and/or grip. Please read the previous sentence over and over again until you understand it. I cannot stress the importance enough!! This is one of the main keys to strong musical performance potential and stamina.

Let me explain.

Obviously, musicians of all kinds are constantly using the hand-closing muscles when flexing their fingers and gripping to play their instrument. We can easily observe this when we play. The flexing muscles, remember, are the muscles on the front of the hand, wrist and forearm.

So what are the muscles on the back of the hand, wrist and forearm doing when flexing muscles are flexing and gripping. The answer? They are working just as hard—in support!

Let me explain another way.

Picture a couple that is figure-skating. The woman is up in the air being supported by the man below. They are performing a trick. All eyes are on the woman in the air, but if the man below is no strong enough to support her, the woman’s performance will not matter. She will fall.

Your finger extensor muscles work the same way. Whenever a musician’s fingers and/or thumbs are flexing and/or gripping, the extensor muscles are working hard to support their action—just like the male who is supporting the female figure-skater!

Most cases of musical fatigue are not due to flexing muscles becoming tired; most musical fatigue is due to the supporting muscles (the extensors) being tired.

Now let me ask you this question: How many musicians do you know that exercise their finger extensor muscles? Not many, I bet—or why would therapists see so many extensor tendon injuries from musicians, called extensor tendonitis. How many musicians use a squeeze ball or a spring loaded gripper only for exercise? Musical fitness ideas must change!

Incidentally, extensor tendonitis can occur anywhere along the back of the thumb, finger, wrist, forearm and elbow. In fact, extensor tendonitis at the elbow is called tennis elbow, a commonly seen condition among musicians. Be sure to strengthen all of your finger extensor muscles—the chance of experiencing fatigue and/or extensor tendonitis, I assure you, will be minimal.

This blog may seem tricky, but please read it a few times. When you understand the mechanics of musical hand actions, your training program will be easy.

Next week, we will answer all of you questions regarding proper hand muscle training using a Hands-Of-Steel-approved hand exercise device. You’ll be able to strengthen and balance all 18 of your hand muscles anywhere, anytime, in one continuous exercise. Piece of cake!

Blog #4
‘How to strengthen and balance all 18 of your hand muscles—properly!’

See you next week!

Great playin’,

Dr. Zachary is the creator of Hand Master Plus. The Hand Master Plus is a complete system designed for the health of your hands. Visit the hand Master Plus web site HERE. Then check out the special pricing of The Hand Master Plus bundled with John McCarthys Hands of Steel Workout DVD for Guitarist HERE.
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1 comment:

Dy-sphoric said...

All I can say is: Thanks for the Post and the continued support...