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EXERCISES to PREVENT RSI Injuries for all instrumentalists

On 12/14/2012 9:57 AM, Luis Angulo wrote:
hers a brief interesting article about the subject


Here's the salient part about preparing yourself against RSI injuries

Improper technique or trying to stretch the hand and fingers beyond normal capacity can irritate joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. This last category – nerves – causes the most pain and anxiety in guitarists, simply because nerve damage is hard to treat. It affects a number of musicians, as well. Keith Emerson, for example, has undergone therapy and major surgery for damage to his hands, and his ability to perform and to record is, as of this writing, in serious doubt. BassistJohnette Napolitano <http://guitarinternational.com/2010/06/14/johnette-napolitano-big-sky-rock-n-roll-and-rattle-snakes/>, formerly of Concrete Blonde, also suffered major nerve damage to her arm, such that a guest bassist (Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson) was brought in for that band’s last studio record. Exercises can help prevent a problem before it gets to such an extreme stage.

Extend your right arm straight out, palm forward, with fingers pointing up as if you were pushing against a wall. Then grab your fingers with your left hand, and pull back, gently. Do it just enough so that you can feel the pull on your muscles, but don’t hurt yourself. Then turn your arm and hand upside down. With your forearm up and your palm still facing out, your fingers should now be pointing downward.

You MUST do this for 20 to 30 seconds each time, at least once a day. Not 10 or 15, but at least 20 seconds, and do it six times with each hand – three up and three down.

For forearms, wrist extensor exercises are important. Extend your arm straight in front of you, with the elbow locked. Point your fingers down, palm in, and bend your fingers in toward you. You should feel an obvious tug on your forearm. Do this in the opposite direction, pointing your fingers up, and try stretching them back towards you. Do not use your other hand to help (as in the exercise above). Just let your fingers stretch the forearm muscles on their own.

There are also finger exercises that you should do, often referred to as a “hand ballet.” Start with your fingers straight up, palm out. Then fold your fingers forward and down to a 90-degree angle, so that they are flush against your palm, and then curl them into a fist. Pull the knuckles up, keeping the fingertips flat against the lower part of the fingers – so that they are almost hook-like. Then flip them back to the pointing-upward position, and repeat the entire exercise from the beginning.

Don’t forget your shoulders and back. While your fingers and hands are the front line of your playing, there are other parts of your body to consider. Electric guitarists who play while standing up frequently share one major complaint: their shoulders ache. This comes from standing hours at a time with a guitar slung somewhere between the chest and the knees, supported only by a thin strip of leather or cloth. The culprit here is often-times your strap. Your shoulder (the left one, for right-handed guitar players) is supporting the entire weight of the guitar, which also puts stress on surrounding areas, especially the neck.

One bit of advice from physicians is to use a wide, heavily padded strap. If that isn’t your style and you prefer the Jimmy Page skinny strap model, try dispersing the direct weight of the strap by placing a small folded towel under the strap (even under your shirt if you don’t want to mess up an all-important fashion statement). Anything to keep the strap from eating into one or several square inches of your shoulder will be better than nothing. By the way, Page claims that his strap, and the weight of Les Pauls and doublenecks, has permanently sloped his left shoulder so that it is significantly lower than the right shoulder.

For you sitters, the constant hunching over the guitar isn’t any better, either. Like your mom told you, “Sit up straight and don’t slouch.” True enough: hunching forward can cause you some lower back pain and shoulder stress. Take care of sitting up straight first, then do some basic relaxation exercises. Neck rolls are a good start: roll your head from side to side, slowly, touching your ears to your respective shoulders.

Regular exercise can keep problems from developing and turning into disasters. Do yourself a favor: treat your fingers as well as you treat all the appendages on your body.